The head of the school I went to, Dr. Bill Sears, stresses the importance of making health your hobby, and I agree. When Dr. Bill Sears set out to make health his hobby, he wanted to know the secret behind the long, healthy lives of a special group of people: Centenarians. We tend to hear about them mainly from the news, when we sit and marvel at how someone 113 sounds healthier and more able-bodied than many people half their age. While there may be some centenarians with some questionable theories about their longevity, many have some very important things in common. If you want to set your sights on a health span that happens to equate to a long life span, here are a few things you should know about those who have aged healthfully.
A great resource to learn more about the longest lived peoples in the world is the Blue Zones by Dan Beuttner. https://www.bluezones.com/. Dan Beuttner and National Geographic set out to discover the secrets to the the world’s longest-lived peoples. The Blue Zones is the compilation of their hard work, research, and experiences with these people. What are some of the things they learned?
- They move. Vigorous centenarians spend much of their day doing physical exercise, whether in their gardens or on a golf course. Their joints don’t have a chance to get stiff or their bones and muscles frail. Exercise is just part of every day life. They never stop playing!
- They love. They have deep intimate relationships. They also have tight social circles, they are not “Lone Rangers”. Family comes first!
- They’re lean. As they aged, they neither gained fat nor lost muscle. Because of their healthy living and eating habits, centenarians have higher blood levels of adiponectin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and acts like a natural anti-inflammatory. Centenarians are not skinny; they are lean, which means they have just the right amount of body fat for their body type.
- They eat less. Centenarians tend to eat 10 to 20 percent fewer daily calories than people on the standard American diet. They also tend to eat mostly whole food, plant based foods; largely vegetarian with meat as a garnish or side item.
- They Don’t Over Eat. They recognize the bodies hunger and full signals and stop before full. Okinawians live by the rule of Hara hachi bu, it is an instruction to only eat until 80% full.
- They Let it go! They learn to let stress go, they do this through daily rituals like naps, a moment or remembrance etc.
- They have purpose. They know their “Why” in life. What makes them get up and go every day matters to them.
- They laugh. They enjoy themselves. Humor is therapeutic!
- They have Faith. Both the Blue Zones and a study by Dr. Dean Ornish found that being part of a faith based community mattered. The type of faith based community varies between groups, but made a difference in their overall wellness.
This fits in very nicely with the research Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Mimi Guarneri did with very ill heart patients. They found that eating a vegetarian diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, and group support when consistently done, all 5 areas , critically ill heart patients improved, many significantly. Does this mean you have to become a vegetarian to be healthy or stop being and introvert? No, but take time for family and friends and add more whole food, plant based foods to your daily life; grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Those who do have lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and over all better health markers, as a rule.
Are you ready to live like a Centenarian? Let’s work together to make these “secrets” part of your everyday too. Live long, play long!
adapted from Dr. Sears Wellness Institute