People with a gene variation linked to a long life are also likely to benefit from clearer thinking and better memory power, new research has suggested.
Scientists at a New York university conducted tests on 158 Ashkenazi Jews aged 95 or older and found those possessing the gene variant were twice as likely to have good brain function.
Further tests on 124 Ashkenazi Jews aged between 75 and 85 found those who did not develop dementia were five times more likely to have a favourable gene than those who did have dementia.
The CETP VV "supergene" produces larger cholesterol particles, making those with the gene less likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes.
"Without good brain function, living to age 100 is not an attractive proposition," said lead researcher Dr Nir Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
"We've shown that the same gene variant that helps people live to exceptional ages has the added benefit of helping them think clearly for most of their long lives," he added.
Mr Barzilai said: "In studying these centenarians, we hope to learn why they're able to resist diseases that affect the general population at a much younger age.
"This knowledge should greatly aid our efforts to prevent or delay the onset of age-related diseases."
The findings are published in the December 26th issue of Neurology magazine.