The oldest verified surviving U.S. war veteran, Richard Overton, turned 111 years old yesterday (May 11), and he credits cigars and God for his supercentenarian life.
A GoFundMe page, set up on Dec. 26, 2016, has raised $179,328 of its $200,000 goal to fund Overton's 24/7 care at his home in Austin, Texas.
His secret? "Cigars and God," according to the description on his GoFundMe page.
"I've been smoking cigars from when I was 18 years old. I'm still smoking them. Twelve a day! Doctors say, 'Don't smoke those cigars, don't eat no salt.' He took me off of salt 40 years ago. And I eat salt whenever I get ready," Overton said in 2014, according to the local Austin Fox News station.
The oldest person to ever live (who's age was verified), was Jeanne Louise Calment of France, who was 122 years and 164 days when she died on Aug. 4, 1997, according to Guinness World Records. The current record holder for the title of oldest living man is 113-year-old Holocaust survivor Israel Kristal of Israel, who was born on Sept. 15, 1903, according to Guinness.
As of April 2017, Guinness had yet to verify the new title holder for the current oldest living person. Emma Martina Luigia Morano of Vercelli, Italy, had been confirmed by Guinness as the oldest living person in the world in 2016. She died in April 2017 at the age of 117.
"Guinness World Records is consulting with our expert gerontologists and will verify the new title holder, subject to evidence review, in due course," said a Guinness spokesperson in a statement in April.
These record holders have given various reasons for their longevity. In 2015, the world's oldest person at the time, 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver, said the keys were exercise and kindness. Misao Okawa, who had been crowned the world's oldest person in 2013, when she was 114 years old, attributed her long life to "eating delicious things," such as ramen noodles, beef stew, hashed beef and rice, Live Science previously reported.
Though scientists haven't found any fountain of youth, plenty of research has investigated the keys to longevity and common elements of centenarians.
Researchers who followed 477 Ashkenazi Jews between the ages of 95 and 112 found that these very old individuals did not have superhealthy lifestyles, with their profiles nearly matching those of the general public in terms of the number who were overweight, didn't exercise or smoked, the scientists said. The researchers' conclusion? Genes play an important role in whether a person lives to see 100, the scientists reported in 2011 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
A study published Dec. 17, 2015, in the journal PLOS Genetics, revealed four genes linked to longevity: ABO, a gene that helps determine blood type; CDKN2B, which regulates cell division; APOE, a gene linked to Alzheimer's disease; and a gene labeled SH2B3.
Of course, genes do not act alone, and a healthy lifestyle can also contribute to a long life. For instance, researchers found that centenarians living in Sicily's mountain villages ate a Mediterranean diet that was rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in red meat and sweets, Live Science previously reported.
Original article on Live Science.
Sign up for the Live Science daily newsletter now
Get the world’s most fascinating discoveries delivered straight to your inbox.
Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.