Forget all the folklore and movies, the real fountain of youth isn’t a place, but a cluster of genes.

Dutch scientists recently announced the discovery of a group of genes that may be the secret to a longer life. These genes actually prevent other “diseased genes” from acting up and deteriorating the body. The finding is based on an ongoing study of 3,500 Dutch citizens who are at least 90 years old.

What’s particularly surprising is that people who possess these genes may live long lives regardless of whether they maintain healthy lifestyles. Eline Slagboom, the researcher leading the study, told The London Times that a long life is ultimately “strongly genetic and inherited.”

"People who live to a great age metabolise fats and glucose differently, their skin ages more slowly and they have lower prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension,” Slagboom said, according to the Times. “These factors are all under strong genetic control, so we see the same features in the children of very old people.”

Unfortunately, just one in 10,000 people actually live to 100 years old, which may be an indication of how rare it is to have this ideal combination of genes. Yet, the findings in this study may help scientists to produce more efficient anti-aging drugs down the road. Amazingly, as the study notes, all it takes is a “tiny mutation” in a person’s genes to boost their lifespan significantly.

In the meantime, there are other steps you can take to increase your odds of leading a long and healthy life. A couple years ago, one National Geographic writer looked at several communities around the world with the highest amount of people living to 100 or older and found that it may all depend on fundamental things like leaving a little food over at the end of each meal and being part of a close-knit community of friends and family.

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