There are some populations who seem to have been born with longevity genes. Is it genetics or do they have secrets to their energy, vitality, and long life? Is it a miracle food or herb that keeps them that healthy?
There have been numerous research studies on longevity. The best research for this answer is to study the people who live the longest. These different research teams studied these people in their natural environment, examining every factor in their life. These special populations live in areas like Ikaria, Italy, Greece, Okinawa, Japan, China and in the United States, the Seven Day Adventists. These are cultures where the people live routinely up into the late nineties and some to over 100. I spent some time reviewing various longevity research studies. I was fascinated to learn that most of these different independent studies came up with the same conclusions. It did not turn out to be supplements or some amazing new herb, but life style and environmental factors. These are the conclusions from longevity research and scientists:
The Life Style of Longevity: There are similarities in the life style of people who remain healthy into the 100’s. They generally live in quaint villages far away from city life. These areas are pretty well untouched from civilization and its modern, stressful life. They don’t own cars, traveling miles each day for supplies and to tend flocks of sheep and goats. They till their own land and produce their own food for the family. They live in close knit groups that worship their God together and work along side of each other to bring in the crops. They socialize, worship, and work as a community.
Their diet consists of simple whole grain foods, vegetables, goat’s milk, eggs, fish, chicken, goat meat and very little red meat. They eat simply and organically. They live a simple, hard working life. They give thanks to someone higher for their blessings and ask for help in their hardships. They do use native herbs and greens for food and medicine. There are no miracle foods, just quality, natural or home grown food in their diets. They do use what nature has given them to stay healthy. I might add that Alzheimer’s and memory loss is rare in these villages. What these research teams learned is that certain life style habits, not some miracle food or herb is what has led to this great longevity and health.
Exercise is the First Secret to Longevity:
These villagers don’t drive cars in most cases. They walk everywhere to buy supplies, tend their farms, and till the land. Exercise is a part of every aspect of their life style.
Since most people cannot live today tending sheep in rural quaint villages, it is extremely important to make exercise a part of your everyday life style. Exercise, even if it’s just walking, can add years to your life and health. Jack La Lane is one of the most impressive examples of this principle. He turned 95 in 2009 and is still exercising. He is one of the healthiest senior men in America even now. He made fitness and nutrition a prime focus. He started the first fitness centers and television programs as well. He has proven the value of exercise and nutrition in today’s modern world. Exercise is one of the most important health secrets from every corner of the world.
Eat Small Portions of Whole Organic Food is the 2nd Secret:
One factor that is common in all these populations is the absence of junk food, convenience food, and fast food. They don’t have soda, power drinks, and sugared cereals. They cook from the garden and from scratch. They live an organic, pesticide free, preservative free, chemical free diet.
In the United States, some of the healthiest people by insurance statistics are the Seventh Day Adventists. I attended the Seventh Day Adventist church with a good friend for several months. I learned a lot about their views on religion and nutrition. I was impressed how they lived their health regimen in all areas of their lives. It is part of the principals that is the foundation of their religion. In the bible, it instructs you to eat natural, pure food. It instructs moderation in drinking wine, eating, what you should and should not eat, and much more. The Adventists adhere to that strict diet avoiding coffee, soda, and junk food. They are strict vegetarians. My friend was 84 years old, thin, rode his bike several miles every morning, came home and swam 4 laps around the pool to start every morning of this life. He was in the physical shape of a man at least 20 years younger. He had energy and was not taking one prescription drug. He was an amazing example.
A few years ago, I took care of a neighbor woman who was vegetarian and what some people would call a health nut. She had been mostly blind for years taking care of herself, her home, and walking the neighborhood for exercise. Her own family, who thought she was odd, verified that she had not been sick ever in her adult life. I watched her go through a root canal without anesthesia or any pain killer. Why was I taking care of her? She had been run over by the next door neighbor backing out and had broken her leg in several places. She was otherwise healthy even after that but needed help at home. The family felt she was better off in a nursing home. I visited her there. She was taken off her vegetarian diet and got little exercise. She was depressed and stressed. She was dead six months later.
There is a true story about a young man in Europe who was given a diagnosis of death from stomach cancer. He went back to his Native home in Ikaria to die with family. Ikaria is an isolated island where its people live much the same now, as they did 100 years ago. Instead of dying, he became healthier and recovered completely. He is still healthy in his late 90’s. Most of the Ikarians live into the late 90’s and 100’s with health and vigor. These long lived people don’t take supplements but do use native herbs for tea and medicine. On their island, they use many of the greens that naturally grow there. The research team sent those greens in for analysis finding many of them rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Most of their vigorous health is due to diet, exercise, attitude, and keeping a stress free life. The Ikarians nap in the afternoon, party, dance, sing, and enjoy life. They don’t wear watches or punch time clocks. The research team was inspired by their love of life, their positive attitude, and views.
The Mediterranean Diet for longevity:
Research has shown that one of the healthiest diets in the world is the low calorie, Mediterranean diet. The diet differs from culture to culture but retains certain similarities: Pure, high grade olive oil is used for cooking and salads; diary, fish and poultry are eaten in small portions; red meat is not eaten on a regular basis; eggs are eaten in most diets; wine is a cultural life style and health factor; and lots of quality fresh, organic vegetables, fruit, and grains. In Italy and other Mediterranean countries, the community farmers market is where the majority of their food is purchased. They buy it fresh several times a week and most of the cooking is from scratch. In Italy and France, meals are not just about eating food. Europeans take more time to eat and enjoy the food and experience. It is a social and family life style. They laugh, they talk, and they enjoy the meal and the company.
Eat Small Portions: One of the factors found in the life styles of these healthy people is not only the quality of the food but the quantity of what they eat. People who are healthy eat small portions of food several times a day. This is not junk food but fruit and nutritious snacks. They leave food on the plate and stop eating before they are completely full.
Handle Stress in a positive way and enjoy life is the 3rd secret:
Stress is one of the major factors that can ruin health. To be precise, it is not stress but the way we handle the stresses in our life. The cultures who live the longest lives, work hard but they also take time to socialize, sing, dance, and enjoy life. If you go back even to slavery in this country, the African Americans worked hard often under horrible conditions. Even in those harsh times, they sang while they worked. They sang and danced often to relieve stress and have a little joy in their life. In the pioneer days, people played music and sang after hard days in the field. To live longer, you must find a way to handle stress, relieve stress, and enjoy your life. There is book called Happiness is a Choice. You do not have to wait for a perfect life, to feel joy and happiness. Even in harsh circumstances, it is your choice to either go through life crying, cursing, and complaining or see the beauty. There is always beauty in our lives, but we choose to focus on the negative and the circumstances that are not going well. This is how one man survived in a Jewish death camp. He refused to lose hope and lose the will to live. He refused to let the horrible circumstances around him take his heart, his dignity, and hope. He survived when most others lost hope and died.
Spirituality Leads to Longevity is the 4th secret: Research teams found in every culture that religious beliefs were an important factor is helping them cope with their harsh life. Their religious beliefs and social life surrounding their religious beliefs were a big factor in their positive attitudes and positive life style. This factor has been the conclusion of every research study on longevity. Quality research studies have shown that people who attend church on a regular basis generally live 7 years longer than people who do not attend church. This is because of the support they receive from the church family and church activities tend to reduce stress. One of the problems in our world today is that we have less time for friends, family, and fun. Europeans and other cultures, make it a point to keep fun a part of their life style.
I want to say as an herbalist, that keeping the principals above are the most important first steps to achieving longevity and health. Herbs and vitamins must come after correcting your diet, your stress, your lack of exercise, and any factors you can control.