Everyone wants to live a long and healthy life. Every few months new research finds some distant village filled with people older than dirt. Immediately we all adopt some obscure element of their life, hoping to live past 100 as they do. There must be a better way to live our life to maximize our enjoyable years.
A recent article published on Health.com collected positive attributes from all over the globe that can help extend your life. Some of their observations are obvious, others more nuanced. Not all healthy behaviors are reasonable in today's environment, but there are some changes that you can adopt today.
In France, it seems that all the women wear a size 0. How does that work in a land defined by rich sauces and wonderful wines? Two behaviors seem to be key. First, portion control is critical. That means that the French can enjoy their butter and creams, but in moderate portions that are a sliver of a typical American's plate. As importantly, the high cost of gasoline means that walking is a much greater part of French life. Can you imagine walking to the grocery store? Maybe you should!
The Northern Europeans seem to live forever, despite a harsh environment. It turns out that the typical Nordic meal is drawn from local, fresh ingredients. This "farm to table" approach means lots of omega-3s and other nutrients and very little junk food. And this is in a region that gets next to no sunlight during winter months.
Living a long life in Japan is not unusual. In fact, Okinawa has the highest concentration of people over the age of 100 in the world. Their secret is much like the French. Their culture values eating only until 80% full. Considering that a typical meal is mostly vegetarian, with a bit of fish rich in omega-3s, the Japanese diet is a strong contributor to long life. Coupled with a culture of social reserve and meditation, stress is not a problem either.
Continuing the pattern of eating lots of omega-3s and other antioxidants, people living a long life in the Mediterranean eat lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables and include wine with meals. Eating is just part of family life, and not the center of their life. This results in world-class low incidence of heart and pulmonary disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.
What can you do to mimic these long-lived countries? Clearly, diet is important. That means more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish rich in omega-3s. Make more meals from scratch and cut out those pre-packaged meals and junk food junkets. Don't fill your plate, or maybe buy new plates that are half the size. Portion control seems to be a common factor in these healthy communities.
Just as important is your outlook on life. In all of these areas, stress is controlled by their culture. Meditate, take quiet walks, paint, practice yoga or anything else that calms your mind. Find family or friends to spend time with in situations where work and life stress can't intrude. Get (or stay) active and make it a point to avoid elevators and tiny car trips. Take some time outdoors as frequently as possible. Your attitude and your vitamin D balance will improve.
No one can live forever, but with a few of these strategies, you can live to see a lot more candles on your birthday cake!