Can you really live to be 100? Dr. LaPook weighs in

Would you want to live to be 100 years old?

With the direction that aging trends are going in, reaching that milestone may not be as far-fetched as some might think, CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook explains.

Census data from 2010 suggest close to 1 million Americans will be 100 or older by the year 2050. Right now, there are about 50,000 people in the U.S. who have reached that milestone, and almost 2 million Americans are currently 90 or older.

After seeing a billboard touting that you too can become one of these centenarians, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller wondered, what does it take to live to be 100? And how do you make sure you're healthy enough to enjoy those later years?

Dr. LaPook, who also is a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, says medical advances against leading killers like cancer, heart disease and stroke are a big reason why more people are now living longer.

There's lot you can do to help improve the chances that you won't end up spending your twilight years in poor health. That starts with eating healthy -- leaning towards a plant-based diet -- not smoking and exercising regularly.

These lifestyle changes not only help stave off chronic disease, they may even impact aging on a molecular level.

A study published this week in Lancet Oncology shows that eating healthy, exercising and making other positive lifestyle changes mayincrease longevity at a cellular level, lengthening our body's "telomeres." Those are protective protein caps found at the end of our chromosomes, whose length has been linked to longevity. Think of telomeres sort of like the little plastic caps at the end of shoelaces that prevent them from unraveling, Dr. LaPook explains.

One of the biggest fears aging adults face is whether their memory and brain health will stay as the years drag on. Many middle-aged adults experience "senior moments," like forgetting where their keys are or forgetting the name of someone they've known for years.

Those fears are compounded by statistics showing that the aging baby boomer population will lead to a tripling in Alzheimer's rates by 2050, from about 5 million now to nearly 14 million over the next four decades.

Watch the video above as Dr. LaPook explains whether those "senior moments" can be signs of something more serious, and how to make sure your body and mind are in the best shape possible by the time you reach triple digits.

  • CBSNews

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