This informative article was submitted by Niu Valley clinic PT , Johanna Anagaran. Thanks Johanna for your contribution!
Keys to Longevity
It’s a question that remains as relevant as it is ancient: What are the keys to longevity? How can we live longer and happier lives?
Life expectancy in the USA has been declining for the last three years. The top ten causes of death are largely chronic diseases, and consist of heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury (including drug overdose), chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide. Given the increasing prevalence of chronic disease, it’s no surprise that many people fear that although they may live longer, it will be with a radically reduced quality of life. This fear may be fueling the global wellness industry, which was a $4.2 trillion market in 2017.
However, increased spending on wellness does not necessarily mean improvements in health and longevity. How do we know what to invest in, and what are the most important factors for living better and longer?
The Blue Zones Project®
“Blue Zone” is a non-scientific term given to geographic regions around the world that are home to some of the world’s oldest and healthiest people. The five blue zones are:
- The Italian island of Sardinia
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California
- Icaria, Greece,
- Nicoya, Costa Rica.
What, if anything, do these areas have in common? A team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists uncovered what they termed “The Power 9” and turned the Blue Zones Project into a community well-being initiative. The Power 9 transform individuals and communities by encouraging behavioral and policy changes. For example, school programs teach children to grow vegetables and cook healthy meals. Honolulu’s Complete Streets design law accommodates people traveling by foot, bicycle, transit, or car, and of all ages and abilities. This not only helps people live longer and better, but also lowers community “healthcare costs, improve productivity, and boost national recognition as a great place to live, work, and play. “
How Do You Use the Power 9?
Here are the nine common characteristics of the Blue Zones that contribute to their residents’ amazing longevity and health. The best thing is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to live and age well without sacrificing quality of life!
1.) Move naturally – Find ways to move more! You’ll burn calories without thinking about it. In addition to the obvious things like taking the stairs and parking the car farther from the store, you can also:
- Start a garden
- Volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter
- Shop at the farmer’s market
- Bike to work
- Join a hiking club
- Learn to swim
- Take up birdwatching or star gazing
2.) Know your purpose – “Why I wake up in the morning” is the essential idea. People who have a sense of their gifts and strengths and use them daily have increased well-being. This could involve work or volunteering. Feeling needed and having a purpose-filled lifestyle can add up to seven years to your life!
3.) Downshift – Reverse chronic inflammation and disease by finding stress-relieving strategies that work for you. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians enjoy their happy hour. How can you get yourself in the slow lane?
- Regular napping (30min, 3x/week may reduce stress hormones and can decrease a person’s risk for coronary heart disease.)
- Pet your dog or someone else’s (maybe after you took them for a walk!)
- Watch a funny show and laugh until your belly hurts.
- Read a novel, sing in the car, dance whenever you can.
- Learn a new hobby or sport.
- Set up a regular happy hour, lunch date, or game night with your pals.
- Arrive 15 min early to every appointment to avoid rushing.
- Learn to meditate or breathe deeply for 5 min.
- Soak in the tub with your favorite bubbles (or friend.)
4.) 80% Rule – Eat mindfully until 80% full and this might be just enough to lose that extra weight. It’s about moderation and portion control. Blue Zone residents eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon/early evening.
5.) Plant Slant – Put more fruits and veggies on your plate, less meat & avoid processed food. The cornerstone of centenarian diets are beans, including fava, black, soy, and lentils. Meat is eaten on average only 5 times per month, with a serving size of 3-4 oz (about the size of a deck of cards.)
6.) Wine@ 5 – If you have a healthy relationship with alcohol, enjoy a glass of wine with good friends each day. People in all blue zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day, with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
7.) Family first – Loved ones should be first. Investing time in family can add up to six years to your life. Keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home, along with children. It lowers disease and mortality rates of children too.
8.) Belong – Connect/Re-connect with spirituality. Belonging to a faith-based community and attending services regularly can add 4-14 years to your life expectancy. Denomination did not seem to matter.
9.) Right Tribe – Surround yourself with people who support positive behaviors- and who support you. Create a healthy social network. The world’s longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors. Okinawans create “moais”- groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Study shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious.
How OrthoSport Hawai’i Can Help
From previous studies (e.g. the Danish Twin study), we know that genes determine only about 20% of what our life has in store for us. This means that we can influence our life and health significantly by choices we routinely make. It’s time to take control!
We at OrthoSport Hawai’i would love to be on your team and help you make healthy behaviors happen. We can offer support in the following areas:
- Downshift with us by coming in for a relaxing massage and giving yourself a well-deserved time-out for your body.
- Move more! Join a virtual group class via the Medical Fitness center or work with a Personal Trainer; sweat, laugh, and make new friends.
- Get guidance on your body’s nutritional demands by making an appointment with our Dietitian or Health Coaches.
- Come in to see our Physical Therapists if you experience any injuries so we can help you return to doing the things you love.
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