Monday, December 31, 2012

Exploring the SECRETS of LONGEVITY

What if you could add ten years to your life? It begins with good genes, but also depends on good habits. Researchers studied three hot spots of longevity around the world and found living proof of lifestyle's powerful effect.

In JAPAN, Okinawans' average life expectancy of 82 years is among the longest in the world. The strong sense of purpose these seniors feel may be a buffer against stress and diseases such as hypertension. Many older Okinawans also belong to a moai, a mutual support network of friends and neighbours, bearing out studies that show elders who stay social are less prone to heart disease and depression. A low-calorie, plant based diet could be a factor too. The home-grown herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables that fill their plates contain compounds that may block cancers before they start.

Okinawa Diet

In ITALY, Sardinian men reach 100 at a rate more than twice as high as the average for Italy. Their isolated villages have preserved a traditional way of life that promotes longevity. Up before dawn doing chores, walking miles each day with their sheep, and turning over the stress of the household responsibilities to their wifes may explain the nearly one-to-one ratio of male to female centenarians. A daily glass of red wine with a high concentration of a component thought to prevent heart disease could help too. As does a strong family dedication to care for the elderly - gerontologists say seniors who live near loved ones tend to live longer.

Shepherd Giovanni Atzeri pours the milk he has hand-drawn from his sheep. He’ll use the milk to make cheese. Pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep—a traditional part of the Sardinian diet—is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Goat’s milk, another staple, contains components that might help protect against inflammatory diseases of aging such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Mauro Bottaro/Anzenberger/Redux

In CALIFORNIA, Seventh-day Adventists live four to ten years longer than the state's average, following a faith that preaches and practices health. Their lifestyle forbids smoking and alcohol and discourages consuming meat, caffeine, and rich foods. Instead, they eat mostly grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and drink five glasses of water each day - all of which may lower risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Many are also active as volunteers, feeling valued while avoiding life-shortening loneliness. As one 112-year-old observes, Of course I feel lonely once in a while, but for me that's always been a sign to get up and help somebody."

Studies of Seventh-Day Adventists (a religious denomination that emphasizes healthy living and a vegetarian diet) show that those who eat nuts add, on average, an extra two and a half years to their lives. 

Text from Complex Miracles of Health and Simple Ways to Enhance It by Philips (National Geographic, August 2007)

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