Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Personal Inventory: Getting Healthy, Being Blue. (1.25.2012)

About a year ago I attended a presentation given by a guy named Dan Buettner. In addition to being a world-class cyclist, writer and damn cute in his own right, Dan is the author of a book entitled Blue Zones (http://www.bluezones.com/), which identifies certain regions of the world where the populations live healthier and longer lives.

Buettner identified five Blue Zones:

Sardinia, Italy: One team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men reach the age of 100 years at an amazing rate.

The islands of Okinawa, Japan: Another team examined a group that is among the longest lived on Earth.
Loma Linda, California: Researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among America's longevity all-stars.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29, 2007.
Icaria, Greece: The April '09 expedition to the island of Ikaria uncovered the location with the highest percentage of 90 year-olds on the planet - nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Ikarians "have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia".
Working with a team of scientists, Buettner found nine common characteristics of all the world’s long-lived people. The secret of how to live longer lies not in diets or exercise programs but in creating the right surroundings.
According to Dan and the scientists, these nine characteristics can help you add up to 12 good years to your life and help you look and feel younger at every age:
1.  Move Naturally: We can get more physical activity naturally if we live in walkable communities, de-convenience our homes by getting rid of power tools and grow gardens.  Walking is the best activity for longevity.
How’m I Doin'? Texting. Does texting count? My fingers are ripped. Also, note to self: re-think garage door opener and TV remote (chances are they will have to pry both out of my cold, dead hands).
2.  Know your Purpose: People who know why they wake up in the morning live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.  Know your values, passions and talents–and how to share them on a regular basis.
How’m I Doin'? Every morning that I am lucky enough to wake up, I know it is because I was put on this earth to be “Sam’s Mom”. Done!
3. Down Shift: Chronic inflammation caused by stress is related to every major, age-related disease.   To reverse inflammation, find time each day to meditate, nap, pray or enjoy a happy hour.
How’m I Doin'? Have significantly reduced the amount of stress in my job by downshifting to writer role. Some days it actually dawns on me: I am happy. I could use more yoga in my life. Finding time for Happy Hours are not a problem.
4. 80% Rule: Cut 20 percent of your calories with evidence based practices: eat a big breakfast, eat with your family, remove the TV from your dining area and say pre-meal expressions of appreciation.
How’m I Doin'? Breakfast: check! The others need work.
5. Plant Slant: Eat mostly a plant-based diet heavy on beans, nuts and green plants.   Eat meat in small portions (the size of a deck of cards) fewer than twice weekly.
How’m I Doin'? A work in progress. I never was very good with plants.
6. Wine at 5: Drinkers out-live non-drinkers.  Two glasses of wine daily will add years to your life, especially when consumed during a plant-based meal.
How’m I Doin'? See #3 “Happy Hour”…J
7. Family First: Living in a thriving family is worth a half a dozen extra years of life expectancy.   Invest time in your kids, nurture a monogamous relationship and keep your aging parents nearby.
How’m I Doin'? Does searching for Mr. Right on match.com count for this one? At least I have Sam and the cats. (I am a woman of a certain age after all.)
8. Belong: Recommit, reconnect or explore a new faith-based community. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist.  People who show up to their faith community four times a month live an extra 4-14 years.
How’m I Doin'? I just broke up with a Jewish guy. Does that count? (Need to work on this. Lately, my only worship is when I go to Orange Theory and pray that the trainer will make it stop soon…)
9. Right Tribe: Your friends have a long-term and measure impact on your health and longevity.  Taking stock in who your friends are and expanding your social circle to include   healthy-minded, supportive people might be the most powerful thing you can do to add years to your life.
How’m I Doin'? I feel good about this one. Most of my friends feel lucky to be well-employed, generally upbeat and grateful for their lives (whew!). For myself, I try to listen to my own voice when it gets that “whiney-tone”.
So there’s my personal inventory. I’m sure Dan can explain all this better than I can. If you’d like to hear it from him directly, you might enjoy this video from TED/Ideas Worth Spreading: