For centuries, people have been in search of the “magic bullet” that will grant them a long life. Many forms including pills, diets or surgeries have been explored. However, the question remains, how can we achieve a longer, better quality life?
Most Americans live a lifestyle that is constantly pushing on the gas pedal, so is there is a brake? The most common accelerators include stress, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and inactivity. Many of these factors have been shown to have an inverse relationship with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer1,2. There have been numerous research studies on how to prevent these diseases, but one expert has traveled the world to seek out the longest living people and ask them how they have lived such a long, high quality life. Author and explorer Dan Buettner has written a book titled The Blue Zones (which is also our April Book Club pick!) describing his findings on how centenarians have lived. The 9 lessons he has concluded to be the best practices include:
Plant Slant--Centenarians have a diet consisting of plant-based foods, beans and few helpings of meat
Move Naturally--Forgoing the weights and machines, these people live in a place where they move without thinking, growing gardens, house or yard work or simply walking for their commute
Purpose-- they may have their own phrase for it, but it simply means “why I wake up in the morning”. Knowing your sense of purpose can add on years to your life.
Down Shift-- taking time to relieve stress can be anything from taking time to reflect on your day, or spending time in a yoga practice. Whatever your go-to relaxer is, make sure to incorporate it in your day
80% Rule-- In Japan they call it “Hara hachi bu”, meaning stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. Since it takes time for your stomach and brain to get on the same page regarding when you’re full, this could aid in the benefit of weight loss.
Wine @ 5-- Most of the centenarians drink red wine, but the idea is to drink 1-2 glasses a day, not save up and drink it all on the weekend. The antioxidants in red wine have been linked to an increase in HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol"), possible decreasing the risk of heart disease.3 **We are not encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol, especially if there is a family history of abuse!
Belong-- All but a handful of centenarians interviews belonged to a faith-based community.
Loved Ones First-- Putting their families first meant keeping aging parents at home, caring for the children and committing to a life partner.
Right Tribe-- The longest living people surrounded themselves (whether by choice or birth right) with a social community that supported healthy behaviors. Studies have shown that smoking, obesity, happiness and more are contagious and spread by those you surround yourself with.4, 5
While all these lessons might be hard to incorporate into your lifestyle at once, start off with a couple you know are achievable. At Thrive Nutrition, we love to help people overcome barriers that might be in place to help achieve a healthy lifestyle. If you are interested, we will be reading this book as a part of our book club next month on April 30th (below for details). Hear the stories and interviews of the longest living people, and discover why changes in your lifestyle may be necessary to extend your quantity and quality of life.