There are a few hotbeds of centenarians (people that live to be 100) ranging from Greece, Italy, China, Japan, and India. There are several books, articles, and interviews that capture the secrets of these pods of people on their secrets to living a long, healthy life. As you can see below, it’s not always about just diet and exercise, but it does revolve around things that we can control - namely our daily habits. I encourage you as you read down the list, pick out 2-3 that you can implement in your life this week:
1. Low Stress
The American Medical Association found that stress is the basic cause of more than 60% of all human illness and disease. Stress by itself is not a bad thing, but obviously too much of it is very bad for our health. Stress is what we do to muscles to make them stronger. But the growth actually happens during rest and recovery. So for the inevitable stress we have in our life, it is more about how we build in recovery. Recovery includes getting plenty of sleep (ideally 7-8 hours per night), massages, building in time doing things that help us relax (walk, art, reading, time with friends, etc), and intentionally building in time away from stress to allow our bodies to recover from the mental, physical, and emotional stress we regularly put on it.
2. Drink 5 cups of green tea per day
Green tea has the most antioxidants you can get from any one food type. Studies have found that those who drink more than five cups of green tea a day have a 26% lower risk of death from heart attack or stroke, a 16% lower risk of death from all causes, and a 28% lower risk of coronary artery disease than those who drank less than one cup of green tea a day.
Moving and exercising was by far one of the most shared traits of the long lived people groups. Most were farmers who had daily chores. There have even been studies showing that smokers who exercise live as long or even longer than non smokers who don't exercise. Since we know how bad smoking is, not exercising is apparently even worse.
4. Eat 7 times more vegetables than meat
One trait all centurion groups shared is that they all ate meat, dairy, and animal products (none are vegan or vegetarians). Even though these healthy people groups ate meat, they had a higher ration of eating more fruits and vegetables than meat – 7 times more vegetables than meat. And a lot of the ‘meat’ included eating a lot of fish.
5. Get married or get a dog
Several studies have found that people that get married (and stay married) live longer. The same studies have also recommended that if you don't get married, then at least get a dog. Humans are social creatures, and we need to love and feel love. And if you don’t want a dog, then find someone or something to take care of (even if it's a garden!).
6. Eat until 80% full
Instead of eating until we feel full, we need to stop just short of that. There has been a good bit of science done to support this. It could be because there is some value in calorie restriction, or that it just keeps our body fat down, or that if you always eat till you feel full you train your stomach to expand and need more and more to feel satisfied.
7. Mind games for the Brain
It’s not just about living a long life if your mind doesn’t stay sharp. Studies have found that people that retire at 65 end up living to age 67. People that retire earlier or later end up living much longer. Part of the motivation we need to keep our body moving comes from our ability to keep our mind moving. Even if you aren’t ‘working’ with your mind like you do in a career, you can supplement it with mind games. That’s the reason every newspaper ever made has the crossword puzzle or the magazine with the Sudoku puzzle in the back. Luckily, mind games are even easier to access now as there are numerous apps we can download and play on our phone. Card games, board games, and video games can also provide similar benefits.
8. Eat food with seaweed
People in Japan that ate food from soil that had once been below sea level were the healthiest. It likely is because of the trace minerals left from the sea water and sea plants like seaweed and kelp. These micro nutrients have been found to have a tremendous positive effect on health.
The healthiest people groups in the world all had some sort of spiritual life with a common theme of prayer. People who pray daily are shown to be 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those without a regular prayer practice. Additionally, patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious.
10. Grass fed eggs
The nutritional differences between grass fed and conventional farmed food is significant. It also applies to grass fed beef, chicken, milk, and butter. It basically boils down to a much healthier fat.
11. Mineral water over distilled
Distilled water is basically 100% free of any extra minerals, just pure water. It doesn’t provide any important minerals like calcium and magnesium which can come from water that flows down rocky stream beds that pick up trace minerals that accumulate as the water dissolves the rock. This idea is similar to the idea of the health benefits of seaweed.
Simply, yogurt helps by providing a natural bacteria (probiotics) in our stomach that helps with digestion. Probiotics have been popular over the years as more people have started drinking kombucha which helps our stomachs in a similar fashion.
13. Humming, Singing, Breathing, Meditating, Laughing
The healthiest people groups in the world seemed to intuitively know the value of oxygen and regularly practice deep breathing (which came naturally from rigorous daily exercise outside). They also did a lot of humming and singing. I have mentioned it in previous posts, but one of the happiest and healthiest members of society are part of the church choir.
There are only 3 scientifically proven ways to increase happiness: Medication, Cognitive Therapy, and Meditation. Many of the healthiest traditional people groups practice some form of meditation.
14. Sprouted bread
The healthiest people groups in the world all had some levels of carbs in their diet, whether it was rice or sprouted bread. There are a ton of health benefits when you simply sprout the bread before cooking it. Scientists found that sprouted bread reduced the blood sugar response and increases the glucagon response compared to regular bread.
15. Be part of something bigger than yourself
Selfish people die younger than people part of a group or a movement. The healthiest people in the world were surrounded by a community, by old friends, by children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The key is to find something bigger than yourself and that you have a passion for. Whether it’s helping people of need, giving away of your time and talents, or doing something that is truly selfless that brings you joy and happiness Hopefully, you found 2-3 simple ideas that can help you get (or keep) your life on track to living a longer and healthier life. Just be 1% better each day and over time the results will show. Ordering the salad instead of the burger, going for a walk instead of scrolling your phone, or having a cup of green tea rather than the soda, it's all in the daily habits and the choices we make along the way. And if we focus on just being 1% better today, it gets easier and easier to keep making the right choices. Have a great week!