Key to longevity: pray you have good genes

Leading a healthy lifestyle – eschewing junk food, getting enough exercise, and shunning tobacco and excessive drinking – will undoubtedly enhance your enjoyment of life. But contrary to general belief, it may not increase your time on this earth, as a new study underlines.

The study conducted the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the USA says that genes have more to do with longevity than lifestyle.

As an example, the researchers point to Dorrie Aber-Noyek, who celebrated her 104th birthday in February.

Aber-Noyek lives by herself, and other than a bit of arthritis and slightly imperfect vision and hearing, she says she's in perfect health. When asked for her secret to such a long life, she had no suggestions to make.

It's not her diet – chicken with Alfredo sauce, her favourite dish, certainly isn't low in fat, and she eats a piece of cake and a chocolate-chip cookie or two every day. It's not her physical activity - while she still enjoys walking, she never belonged to a gym or worked out regularly.

The study, published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggests Aber-Noyek is typical of what scientists call "super-agers." The researchers found that people who live to be 95 or older do not generally have lived a healthier lifestyle than others who die earlier.