Americans dream of living long. In a survey done by Stanford Center on Longevity several years ago, 77 percent said they’d like to make it to 100.
And so we diet, count steps, pop supplements and hope for miracle immortality treatments. Yet although diet and exercise are certainly vital for health (some supplements may actually harm your centenarian potential), science shows there is another longevity ingredient we often overlook: finding purpose.
Research reveals that people who believe their existence has meaning have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and more favorable gene expression related to inflammation. If a 90-year-old with a clear purpose in life develops Alzheimer’s disease, that person will probably keep functioning relatively well despite real pathological changes in the brain, one study found. Another meta-analysis of 10 studies involving more than 136,000 people found that having purpose in life can lower your mortality risk by about 17 percent — about as much as following the famed Mediterranean diet.