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Happy 115th!

At the end of the “Happy Birthday” song, children often chant, “How old are you now?” As of yesterday, Edna Parker of Indiana could respond, “115.”

A grand celebration on Friday honored Parker and her achievement as the oldest known living person. Though she’s outlived her two sons, she has five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 13 more great-great grandchildren! Talk about a huge family tree!

But living this long isn’t just great because she gets to be with her family—she has become a part of the study of scientists called supercentenarians, who study individuals who lived to 110-years-old and longer. Today only 75 individuals fit into this category: 64 women and 11 men, according to the Gerontology Research Group of Inglewood, CA.

Tom Perls, head of the supercentenarian project, says that a secret to living healthier for longer is to avoid dwelling on stressful events, which could prevent heart attack or stroke. Parker’s grandson confirms this to be true—she was never a worrier—about his Guinness World Record-breaking grandmother. Other factors contributing to living to be 110 include genetics and health habits.

And what could these health habits be? PLoS Medicine says exercising, not smoking, only drinking in moderation and eating lots of fruits and veggies can tack 14 years on to your life. Hey, you have to start somewhere! [Associated Press]

Posted: 4/21/08