How to Live Longer: 4 Researched Ways to Increase Longevity
Most of us in this world would like to live as long as we possibly can and experience a good life. I have often heard people tell me that they would rather live well than live longer while being unwell or unhappy, and, for the most part, I concur. But what if it is possible to live longer and also experience good health and happiness?
I recently watched a very informative TED Talk given by Dan Buettner entitled ‘How to Live to Be 100+’. In his presentation, Dan reveals his research findings on longevity, citing studies that have taken place over a period of thirty years. The aim of the research was to find out the factors that contributed towards longer longevity and to debunk common myths.
Logically, the study focused on people around the world who live the longest. Researchers narrowed down studies to five groups of people in these geographical areas: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece. These regions produced the highest number of centenarians (people who are at least 100 years old) than anywhere else on earth. The populations in these regions were then studied to find out what they all had in common and why their longevity rates were so high.
Research discovered four main common factors that contributed towards the longevity of these fascinating people:
1. They Move Often
A common denominator amongst the group of people that were studied is that the people of that group are active. They are constantly moving. The people in Okinawa grow a lot of their own food and tend to their gardens every day.
The people of Sardinia walk everywhere. The region is mountainous and homes are built with steep staircases and the citizens have to navigate both on a daily basis.
The people in Loma Linda habitually go for nature walks and shun many modern forms of transportation.
The population in Nicoya work hard, most often on the farm. They grow fruit trees and tend to them often.
In Ikaria, residents stay active by engaging in regular walks, fishing, and farming.
Clearly, leading an active lifestyle with lots of movement is beneficial if we want to live longer. None of these groups of people went to the gym, per say, but their daily lives involved being on the move. They never stay idle for too long. They do not sit in front of computer screens for hours each day. They did not sit on the couch watching a whole season of Breaking Bad on TV.
2. They Have a Good Outlook on Life
The second trait that all five groups of people shared is having a great outlook on life. By good outlook we are referring here to the type of mindset that brings meaning, purpose, happiness, and calmness. In Okinawa, for example, residents adhere to the concept of ‘ikigai’, which means ‘reason for being’ or ‘the reason to get up in the morning’. They strongly believe that everyone has their own ikigai and that it is extremely important. Most Okinawans never retire but, instead, pursue their ikigai until they die.
People in Sardinia have a positive outlook on life and a good sense of humor.
People in Loma Linda have a strong religious connection and place high value on emotional health and helping others.
The people of Nicoya believe in their own form of ikigai and stress the importance of having a purpose in life.
People in Ikaria tend to be grateful and not take things for granted. They also have a great sense of humor. All five groups of people lead a calm, relaxed lifestyle with little to no attention paid to clocks and alarms. Morning rush-hour traffic is something most have never experienced.
3. They Eat Wisely and in Moderation
Another common factor amongst the five groups of people is what and how they eat. The traditional diet of Okinawans comprises 30% green and yellow vegetables. They eat less rice than the average Japanese and consume large amounts of local purple sweet potato. They consume very little sugar and grains. Most of their protein intake comes from soy and legumes instead of meat or fish. Another interesting fact is that Okinawans believe in eating until they are 80% full. They seem to know that it takes a while for the brain to get the message when someone has eaten enough.
Sardinians eat cheese made from milk from local sheep that eat grass. This cheese contains more omega 3 than normal sheep’s milk cheese. Sardinians also consume 2-3 glasses of their local red wine, called Cannonau, every day. Cannonau has been shown to contain the highest amount of antioxidants of any wine in the world. Sardinians also eat a lot of whole wheat bread in their diet. This thin bread contains a large amount of fiber.
People in Loma Linda drink a lot of water. They also follow a diet advocated in the Bible consisting of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains. They also shun sugar.
The Nicoyans in Costa Rica eat a lot of organic and local produce such as corn, beans, fruit, and vegetables. Their water contains a high amount of calcium.
People from Ikaria, Greece, eat a Mediterranean diet consisting of a lot of fresh green vegetables, herbal teas, yogurt made from goat’s milk, whole grain bread, legumes, and olive oil. Interestingly, the five groups of people in the study who have the highest longevity in the world either do not eat meat, or they do so sparingly.
4. They Connect with Others
The fourth and last common factor that was discovered is a strong connection with others. All four groups of people place a strong emphasis on family, friends, community, and society at large. They believe that everyone is connected. They have strong and close social groups that help and support one another. They also are generous in their ways and often share their bounties. Family meals are commonplace rather than being the exception. Family members are close and spend a lot of time with one another. It is common for extended families to live together. Meeting up regularly with friends for a game of chess or dominos is common. People help one another. Everyone knows their neighbours.
An important point to note is that a high percentage of the people from the five groups that were studied are healthy, even towards the latter parts of their lives. Their good health affords them a high quality of life. Most still work. Almost all of them walk daily.
So those are the four secrets on longevity that research has uncovered. The people on our planet who live the longest move often, have a good outlook and mindset, eat wisely and moderately, and they have a strong connection with others.
How does this translate into our modern world and shed some light on how we should live if we want to live longer? Move often (exercise, stay physically active and avoid being sedentary). Have the right outlook (learn to be positive, grateful, optimistic, content, and happy while minimizing stress). Eat wisely (eat nutritious food that comes primary from fruit, grains, legumes, and vegetables while eating meat, sugar and processed food only sparingly, or not at all. Eat in moderation). Connect (spend time cultivating strong bonds with family members, friends, and society at large while helping others). I wish you a long, healthy and happy life!