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Can you live to be 100 years old? Would you want to?

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18 2013 2:25 p.m. MDT

Census data from 2010 predicts that more than 1 million people in the United States will reach age 100 or older in 2050. (Shutterstock) Census data from 2010 predicts that more than 1 million people in the United States will reach age 100 or older in 2050. (Shutterstock)

More Americans will live to see their age into three digits.

With the advancement of medicine and technology, more Americans are reaching age 100 and counting. But what would it take to become a centenarian, and more importantly, would you want to?

According to data released from the 2010 Census, more than 1 million people are projected to reach age 100 by 2050. The average life expectancy in the United States is 76.3 for makes and 81.1 for females. In Utah, the average life expectancy for males is 78.3 years and 82.1 for females.

Currently, 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.

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

LaPook explains that the key to longevity starts with diet and not smoking. It also is important to exercise both mind and body to keep sharp.

"For the vast majority of people, when they're worried about senior moments, they don't have Alzheimer’s, they're just getting older," LaPook said. "We used to kind of blow that off, and say 'Well, it's just a senior moment' but you know what? So what, it's a senior moment. It does reflect something happening with age."

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease may nearly triple in 2050, from 5 million to a 13.8 million if no medical breakthrough is discovered to prevent, slow or stop the disease.

LaPook notes that physical and mental exercise can help the brain continue to make a protein that is connected to memory and longevity. The protein, called "telomeres" naturally decreases with age.

Some people genetically are programmed to live longer, but genes are only 10 percent of what factors into how old people live. People who do not have longevity in their genes can make lifestyle changes that can impact what birthday they reach. Conversely, people with genetics geared toward longevity can make lifestyle choices that will inevitably cut their life short.

In August, the world's oldest documented living man was discovered living in a straw-roofed, dirt-floor hut in Bolivia. According to baptism records, considered as authentic records for birth dates before 1940, Carmelo Flores Laura was born on July 16, 1890. His birthdate would make him 123 years old.

Flores attributes his longevity to walking daily and a diet that does not include sugar or pasta.

Email: crenouard@deseretnews.com

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