Archive for July, 2012

Longevity in Today’s World

Posted on July 6, 2012. Filed under: Aging | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

How to live longer has long been a consuming thought in the minds of many.  How do people really live to be 100?  This topic has been widely researched and National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner wrote about “The Blue Zones”, narrating a lot of wonderful personal stories from some of the oldest people in the world, where they live, and what they did that they felt helped them live a long life.  Though not every region was the same (some were strikingly different), there are quite a few similarities as listed below:

1. Be active & exercise.

  • The longest living people engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity, often as part of a daily work routine.
  • Low intensity exercise is easiest on the joints.

2. Stop eating before you are full.

  • Eat until you’re about 80% satisfied.
  • Part of the benefit of this  comes from the inevitable weight loss (none of the long living people in The Blue Zones were ever obese).
  • Serve food on smaller plates (people who get larger portions eat more than those who get smaller ones).
  • Eat more slowly.
  • Have your biggest meal of the day early (breakfast or lunch). Dinner in all the Blue Zones was the smallest meal of the day.

3. Avoid meat and processed foods.

  • Most of the oldest living people ate meat, just very rarely–maybe once or twice a month, or only on special occasions.
  • Scientists have analyzed diets and found that those who restrict meat are associated with living longer.
  • Instead of meat, fill up on  fruits and vegetables.
  • Get protein from eating  beans, tofu, and nuts. Nuts are “perhaps the most impressive of all  longevity foods.” People that eat nuts 5 times per week had half the heart disease of those who never eat nuts. In fact, the FDA now allows the claim that “eating 1.5 oz per day of most nuts….. may reduce the risk of heart disease.”  Try the “raw”, not roasted kinds.

4. Drink red wine in moderation.

  • The secret to drinking red wine is moderation and consistency.
  • Red wine contains “artery-scrubbing polyphenols” that may help fight arteriosclerosis.
  • Have only 1-2 glasses per day.

5. Have a strong sense of purpose.

  • A strong sense of purpose in the elderly may act as a buffer against stress and help reduce their chances of suffering from many diseases (Alzhimer’s, arthritis, stroke).
  • An 11-year study found that people between the age of 65 and 92 who expressed a clear goal in life  lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.

6. Take time to relieve stress.

  • The oldest people in the world live a lifestyle where they often take breaks–naps, tea with  friends, heading out of the house, gathering for meals with much socializing, honoring the Sabbath. The result is a greater sense of well-being.
  • Americans employed full time  work an average of 43 hours a week and take the shortest paid vacations in  the industrialized world. When they do take time off, 20% stay in touch with the office.  Few cultural institutions exist to encourage us to slow  down, unwind, and de-stress.
  • Try minimizing electronic entertainment in your home (TV, internet, etc.) Most of it feeds mind chatter and works counter to the notion of slowing down.

7. Participate in a spiritual community.

  • All of the oldest living people in the Blue Zones were religious.
  • A study of over 3600 people  found that those who attend religious services at least once a month  reduced their risk of death by one third.
  • As a group, attendees of  religious services had a longer life expectancy, with an impact about as great as that of moderate physical activity.

8. Make family a priority.

  • Take care of your children well while they’re young so that they’ll be more inclined to take care of  you when you’re older.
  • Elders who lived with their families have much sharper mental and social skills.

9. Surround yourself with people that share these values.

  • Higher social connectedness leads to greater longevity.
  • Spend time with your social  support network on a regular basis.
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