Last week, we reviewed Episode One of the Netflix Series “Live to 100 – Secrets of the Blue Zones”. Dan Buettner, author and travel expert, featured the Okinawans’ focus on good nutrition, an active lifestyle, community and a sense of purpose. Episode two highlights Sardinia Italy and Loma Linda California to find other secrets to these longevity hot spots.
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Rural Longevity Hotspot:
Sardinia is a small town in the mountains of Italy. The town is built into the mountains causing the streets to have steep inclines and the homes to host multiple flights of stairs. Just getting around Sardinia is a workout. Just moving around your household is a workout. When your daily activity and effort is high without even having to go to the gym that positively impacts your longevity.
It’s probably surprising to learn that the centenarians in Sardinia eat a lot of breads and pastas, considering that in America, they are considered the enemy to health. The difference is in the preparation. Breads and pastas in Sardinia are often homemade, not processed as they are consumed most often in the USA. Sour Dough bread is a staple and has a lower glycemic index. They consume a diet rich in fiber, whole grains, beans and greens. Minestrone, another staple, is essentially beans, vegetables, and sometimes pasta. The Sardinians teach us that carbs aren’t so bad after all if they are prepared right and contain a lot of fiber.
For every 5 female centenarians in the USA, there is only 1 male centenarian. However, in Sardinia, it is a 1:1 ratio and boasts the highest concentrations of Male centenarians in the world. So, what’s the difference? In Sardinia, men were traditionally shepherds. Their job is to care for the animals and is very active. Their day is full of physical labor outdoors with beautiful scenery and low stress. The low stress level of this work positively impacts longevity. Americans experience excessively high stress levels, which causes chronic disease.
Care for the Elderly
It is estimated that elderly people who enter a nursing home lose 2-6 years of life expectancy. Elderly Sardinians typically do not enter nursing homes and instead, get much better care at home from their family. Sardinians commit to caring for their elderly and recognize that the elderly can provide wisdom and advice to the family.
Urban Longevity Hotspot:
Okinawa and Sardinia are both remote, rural, and isolated areas. Buettner was curious to see if a longevity hot spot could be found in an urban area. He found what he was looking for in , an American suburb, where men live 7.3 years longer and women live 4.4 years longer than others.
Loma Linda is home to 7th Day Adventists, conservative Methodists, who evangelize with health. One of the founding leaders had a vision on the importance of living an active and healthy lifestyle, not only for overall health now, but also to have a better path to Godliness and a connection with the divine.
Health behaviors are contagious. Studies show that if your 3 best friends are obese, there’s a greater chance that you’ll be overweight also. If you want to be active and eat healthy, hang around others who exercise and eat well. The community of 7th Day Adventists are regularly reminded of the importance of overall health and are surrounded by others who adopt this practice daily. You can drop your chances of dying by 1/3 by staying active, but most Americans don’t; 7th Day Adventists regularly inspire each other to stay committed to their health and fitness.
One of the spiritual pillars to 7th Day Adventists is volunteering. Studies show that those who volunteer regularly have better social connections, increased physical activity, higher levels of happiness, and a sense of meaning and purpose, which all lead to increased longevity.
Adventists focus on good nutrition with 60% of their diet comprised of fruits and vegetables and only 5% from meats, whereas Americans consume 15% of their diet from meats. Eating plant-based is fundamental to their beliefs, with 35% of Adventists being Vegan or Vegetarian. Adventists who are vegetarian live the longest and weigh about 20 pounds less than their meat-eating peers.
The Adventists practice Saturday Sabath, a 24-hour period where they rest and shutdown, a process that reduces stress and worry. Studies show that people who attend religious service more than once weekly add 7 years to their life expectancy. It appears that it doesn’t matter which religion, but rather that you are part of a faith-based community where you socially connect and allow yourself to let go of your burdens.
Yours in health & fitness,