There are parts of the world where centenarians are common. Called blue zones, these areas are known for their high percentage of citizens who live far longer and better than the overwhelming majority of the population.
Centenarians, those that live to at least 100, of course, are not exclusive to blue zones.
Longevity in blue zones is often attributed to lifestyle, diet, and genetics. Many citizens in these areas get daily exercise and eat a diet of mainly whole and fresh foods that encourage health. But could a robust immune system be at play, as well?
A new study that was not focused exclusively on blue zones revealed that centenarians might reach 100 and beyond thanks in part to a more agile and adaptive immune system. Blood tests of centenarians, with an average age of 106, showed that they possess highly functional immune systems that adapt easily to infections and illnesses.
The researchers performed a genetics analysis of several immune cells circulating in the bloodstream; then they compared the centenarian cells with two publicly available databases featuring another seven centenarians as well as 52 people ranging in age from 20 to 89.
Using advanced computational techniques and models, the researchers looked for differences. They found that centenarians had been exposed to multiple infections and sources of harm. However, their immune system was able to mount a response to keep them healthy. This allows them to live longer and continue to build a resilient and effective immune system.
It’s also possible that these cells, which offer enhanced immune strength, occupy other tissues, perhaps providing an overall enhancement in muscles, bones, and other organs.
The researchers also found that centenarians’ immune profiles did not follow the path of what would be considered “normal” aging.
A strong and robust immune system is only one factor that may contribute to extreme longevity. It is also hard to tell if lifestyle, happiness, etc. contributed to immune strength.
Another unique aspect of centenarian health is that they tend to develop disease later in life and do not battle illness, ultimately wearing away at them for decades. Many are healthy right up until the day they die.
According to some experts, 30 percent of centenarians don’t get any disease before death.
You might not live to 100, but doing things that promote a strong immune system, like limiting inflammation through diet and exercise, may reduce the risk of illness.