Carolyn Cabral turns 100 in November 2023
Carolyn Cabral of Charlotte is part of a relatively exclusive club as a nonagenarian, or people between the ages of 90-99. In November, Carbal, 99, will reach a rarer milestone in November when she turns 100 – there were around 1,800 in North Carolina in 2021 according to the Population Division of the United Nations.

What’s the secret to a long, healthy life?

For Carolyn Cabral, who lives in Charlotte, it’s playing bingo twice a week with friends and Zumba once a week.

Cabral turns 100 in November.

“I do everything I have to do,” she said. “I cook. i clean. I do everything.”

Cabral, who worked as a cosmetologist prior to retirement, enjoys reading, dancing, music, and has no major health problems. She is married and has two sons, two stepdaughters, and several grandchildren. A couple of years ago Cabral went vegetarian and now eats light meals like salads. During the COVID pandemic, she has stayed safe by wearing a face mask and getting vaccinated. She also does routine doctor appointments once a year.

If you take good care of yourself at every stage of your life, you can get lucky enough to see your 100th birthday.

“A big thing is they stay active,” said Dr. LaToya Fulton, a primary care physician at Dedicated Senior Medical Center. “Some of them still walk, some still go to the gym, and that’s why they don’t even look their age at all. Those are two of the biggest things and of course, they try to eat well.”

About 0.27% of the United States’ population – 89,739 people in a nation of nearly 337 million – is 100 or older, according to a 2021 census by the Population Division of the United Nations. In 2016, there were about 82,000 centenarians living in the US, and the number is expected to increase to more than 500,000 people by 2060 according to Statista. North Carolina had 1,796 centenarians and 61,090 nonagenarians, or people aged 90-99, in 2021.

Although US life expectancy has fallen since the pandemic, the number of centenarians has increased. Researchers found they have highly functional immune systems that allow them to live longer and remain functional in old age.

According to the New England Centenarian Study, these individuals delay diseases associated with aging because of their healthy lifestyle. For example, managing stress, eating right, not smoking, and exercising regularly.

Genetics play a major role in longevity, too. Hitting the age of 90 is about 30% genetic and 70% healthy behaviors.
Here are some ways to increase your chances of living longer:

1. Don’t stress out. Find ways to relieve stress whether it is calling a friend or going out for a walk. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death of Americans.
Stress causes you to age faster and increases the chances of heart issues and other health problems.

2. Exercise. You have to move. Whether you walk around your neighborhood for 15-20 minutes or go to the gym, stay physically active. Some seniors suffer from arthritis, so moving around no matter your age will reduce the chances of developing joint pain later in life.

3. Stimulate your brain. Whether you’re young or a senior, do fun brain teasers like jigsaw puzzles, crossword searches, and sudoku. Keeping the brain sharp in old age prevents Alzheimer’s disease and other mental decline.

4. Improve your diet. Less is more when it comes to consuming your guilty pleasures like cookies and potato chips. People who live to be 99 or older still eat them, but in moderation.

Instead, increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and nuts or even consider going vegan.

5. Don’t smoke. Stay away from all nicotine products such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, and vaping. The key is to never start smoking because once you start, it’s hard to stop.

Vape pens contain nicotine and other toxins that can lead to lung cancer.

Aaliyah Bowden, who covers health for The Post, is a Report For America corps member.