How do we begin to learn about living long, healthy, disease-free lives? Well, naturally, we should look to those who are successful at it already. There are several people groups in the world that have many healthy centenarians and rarely, if ever, suffer from the degenerative diseases we are so plagued with here in the U. S. The Hunza people of the Himalayas are widely recognized for their longevity. In his book The Blue Zone, Dan Beuttner examines the following groups also noted for their longevity: the Sardinians of Italy, the Okinawans of Japan, the Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda, CA, and the Nicoyans of Costa Rica. I compiled a list of items that all these people groups have in common to some degree or another.
1. Plant Based Diet: The above mentioned people groups all subsist on a plant based diet. Their food is minimally processed, organic, and in as close to a natural state as possible. Some of these societies do not have access to power and do not cook their food. Therefore, their food has many live enzymes which aid in digestion and slow the process of aging. If they eat meat at all, it comprises less than 5% of their diet. They also eat a light dinner which means that their bodies do not have the heavy task of digesting food at night, which allows their physiological systems to focus on repairing the body during sleep hours.
2. Exercise: People in these groups generally exercise regularly. What surprised me is that their exercise isn't high in intensity whatsoever. Their exercise is moderate. They walk, garden, and get their heart rates up while busy with their daily activities. So much for busting my rear at the gym!
3. Strong Social Networks: We all have a need to be connected with other people and feel that others care about us. (Reminds me of the 80's show Cheers - "where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.") Long-lived people groups have strong family bonds and make family a primary focus in life.
4. A Positive Attitude: Longevity champions have a positive outlook on life and can laugh about situations to help deal with their stress. Laughter is powerful. Physiologically, it helps our bodies deal with hard situations. Having a good sense of humor, learning to see the glass half full, and being grateful for the blessings we enjoy can go a long way toward promoting longevity.
5. A Sense of Purpose: We all need to feel like we have a purpose - to know that our existence makes a difference during our sojourn on this planet. This is another characteristic of the above mentioned groups.
6. Sun Exposure: The people groups known to live longest get vitamin D while taking their walks outside, working the fields, and gardening. Sun exposure can help enhance sleep and ward off depression. Despite the bad press it has gotten lately, sun exposure at the right time of day and of reasonable duration is healthful and can even help prevent cancer. Ironic, huh? (More on that in a later post).
7. Meditation: A final quality of the groups known for longevity is their habit of taking time to meditate. Leaning on their faith helps them deal with the normal stresses of life.
Interested in reading more? Pick up a copy of these excellent books:
The Blue Zone by Dan Buettner
50 Secrets of the World's Longest Living People by Sally Beare
Have a great day!