I was listening to a talk by Dr. Peter Attia yesterday. He is a Toronto-born physician who went to Queen’s University and then Stanford. I first heard him speak on The Tim Ferriss Show and was impressed. This recent video was really enlightening too. He spoke about looking at centenarians, folks who live past the age of one hundred, to understand their journey.

First, he explained the four horsemen of death for average people… cardiovascular and cerebrovascular incidents (heart attacks and strokes), cancer, neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s) and accidental death (automotive, accidental poisoning and falling).

He then looked at how centenarians pass away compared to those younger and found that heart disease goes up, cancer goes down, neurodegenerative diseases remain the same and they also must deal with pneumonia more often.

But the main difference is that centenarians get chronic disease later than non-centenarians. Average people start dealing with chronic disease between 60 and 80 years old while centenarians don’t have to start dealing with it until they are between 80 and 98 years old. So Attia said that “the key to living longer is delaying the onset of chronic disease.”

How do we do that?

We can’t change our genes, which many centenarians hit the lottery with, but we can look at nutrition, exercise, sleep, dealing with distress, and what else we put into our bodies.

What are some small habits we can start that don’t seem too challenging? A lemon water upon waking and before bed? A few strength training moves that we can complete as we move through our day? Adding a walk to our routine or taking the stairs instead of the elevator when we have the choice? Having nothing to eat between 8pm and 8am, as an intermittent fast, so that our organs can have time to rest and can flush out cells that our body doesn’t need? Saving our treats for the weekend so that we don’t have them every day of the week?

There is not one solution for everyone. But if a handful of small steps added to our daily lives can make the difference of when those chronic diseases knock on our doors, is it worth it? Who knows… we may become the centenarians we are reading about today.