Jeanne Calment, the French doyenne believed to be oldest person in the world when she died at the extreme age of 122, was known for three things: her quick wit, her fondness for bicycling around the small city where she grew up — and the fact that she was a daily smoker.
Before her death in 1997, Calment was often asked the secret to her good health. She would respond with a laugh and describe how she would frequently consume two pounds of chocolate a week, drank generous amounts of port wine and became a smoker at age 21.
At a time when public health messages emphasize just how important it is to carefully balance diets and fitness regimes in order to live long lives, Calment is a reminder of that no matter what we do there may always be a part of our health that is beyond our control.
In an intriguing study published this week, researchers delved into the genetic makeup of long-lived smokers like Calment and found that their survival may be due to an innate resilience they were born with.