What’s the real key to a long life: Leading a healthy lifestyle, or having good genes? That’s a question at the heart of a new study we read about in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Basically, researchers wanted to know why 1-in-4 North Americans live to be 100, while many others die long before that?

To find out, researchers compared the lifestyles of about 500 centenarians, to a group of people who were born around the same time, but who died before their 90s. What they found is that centenarians are really no more or less likely than the rest of us to be health freaks! In fact, the percentage of people who live to be 100 – even though they smoke, drink, or are overweight – is about the same as the general population.

So, that would suggest your genes are more important, right? Actually, researchers say it’s a combination of both. Because studies show that having good genes can only slow the aging process, and protect you from certain diseases. But the only proven way to extend life is through diet and exercise. In fact, studies have shown that limiting your consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and meat can add at least 10 years to your life.

In other words: Don’t skip the health advice you hear on this show just because you have relatives who’ve lived to be 100. Whatever you can do to slow the aging process through your lifestyle will improve your odds of living to be 100.