Friday, April 16, 2010

Longevity & Vitality

Healthier and longer living
Blue Zones is a research effort founded and led by Dan Buettner and funded in part by the National Institute on Aging.    What is a Blue Zone?  Places in the world where a higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives.   National Geographic featured 3 Blue Zones in their 2005 edition.  Many people think of “Shangri La” when it comes to living a long time….somewhere far away and exotic.  Interestingly, one place where people live longer and healthier is right here in the USA.    Residents of Loma Linda, California live approximately 10 years longer than the rest of Americans and enjoy dramatically lower rates of disease.  
What is their secret?
Lessons from Loma Linda
Longevity often does run in families but genetics are estimated to account for only about 30% of our health.  The secret of vitality in Loma Linda is not their genes but rather their faith, community and lifestyle. 

A significant number of people in the town are Seventh Day Adventist.  Adventists have a strong health aspect to their faith and do not drink or smoke and most follow a vegetarian or plant based diet.
In one study, 1 million American Seventh-Day Adventists were compared to the rest of Americans and found to have:
 40% less coronary disease
100% less morality rate from all causes
1000% percent less death rate from lung cancer
50% less dental cares in children
While residents of Loma Linda do follow a healthy lifestyle, they also have a strong faith and a strong community.  These factors have been observed to be common denominators in areas where people live well.   
People who live well do so in an atmosphere of faith, community and healthy living.

Plant Power
Adventists model their diet after Genesis 1:29
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” NIV
Generally speaking, as the consumption of animal products decreases, the health benefits increase.  Animal products include all meat (fish, pork, beef, lamb, chicken) as well as dairy and eggs.    We also see that health improves as people consume less simple sugars and fat.  A plant based diet which limits oil and chooses from lower glycemic index unprocessed vegetables, fruits and grains is the healthiest of all.
The American Dietetic Association has released an updated position paper on vegetarian diets that concludes: “such diets, if well-planned, are healthful and nutritious for adults, infants, children and adolescents and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.”

The Blue Zones “Power 9”
The top 9 factors for health, vitality and longevity as compiled by Blue Zones:
1.      Move (find ways to move mindlessly, make moving unavoidable)
2.      Plan de Vida (know your purpose in life)
3.      Down Shift (work less, slow down, rest, take vacation)
4.      80% Rule (stop eating when you're 80% full)
5.      Plant-Power (more veggies, less protein and processed foods)
6.      Red Wine (consistency and moderation)
7.      Belong (create a healthy social network)
8.      Beliefs (spiritual or religious participation)
9.      Your Tribe (make family a priority)
One could easily add Positive mental attitude/Gratitude to this list.  People who live well live with a sense of joy and gratitude.  They are not overly concerned, they worry less than most.

For more information, here are some videos on this topic

Additional Resources (Highly recommended reading “Engine 2 Diet” and “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell