The Secret to Living Longer?

Birthday Cake

A recent article in the Idea Fitness website shares a summary of research done by Dan Buettner, Author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (2008). Blue zones are areas where people live much longer than the rest of the planet such as Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica), and the Seventh-Day Adventist Community in Loma Linda, CA.

Buettner sought common demoninators which might help to explain why folks living in these places lived longer. The article on Idea Fitness features a summary by Canadian journalist, Matthew Kadey. Here are the common factors in the Blue Zones that Buettner studied.

  1. Each place had a prodominantly plant-based diet; that diet was not the same in each zone, but it was still plant based.
  2. Daily life was filled with physical activity. Whether it was shepherding, pounding grain, farming or exercise, this was a common attribute of each place.
  3. While the “purpose” varied in each Blue Zone, inhabitants had a strong sense of purpose in their lives. Whether it was commitment to community, fulfillment at work, etc., people in these areas in general had a strong reason to live.
  4. Social interaction was prevalent. Each of these communities had many opportunities for people to gather in social settings; there was a strong sense of interconnectedness.

What can we draw from these results? Kadey suggests that we can learn and adapt from Buettner’s findings ways to lengthen our days. We can switch to a more plant-based diet, keep ourselves physically active, find meaning/purpose in our lives, and take advantage of or create opportunities to have social interactions. Combining all of these appears to be a key feature of the Blue Zones.

Of course, not only do these factors seem to contribute to a long life, but to a healthy, meaningful one as well! Let’s make our own Blue Zones.

What Did I Come Into this Room for…and Other Things I Worry About

PET scan of an healthy brain compared to a brain at an early stage of Alzheimer's disease.

A short, but informative and helpful, article appeared on CNN.com’s health page today that sparked my interest. Entitled, “Is My Senior Moment the Start of Dementia?,” it explores the difference between milder forms of cognitive impairment such as forgetfulness and more serious forms such as Alzheimer’s Disease. The author, Laurie Archbald-Pannone, is an associate professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Virginia.

As I have grown older, I have accepted that my memory is not what it once was. I have noticed that it seems to be much worse when I am under a lot of stress. I will make what I consider to be stupid mistakes like going to the grocery store to buy one thing and leaving with five things–none of which was the original product I intended to buy. I sometimes cannot remember a name or find the right word to express myself. I got so worried at one point (soon after my move to Cleveland and starting three jobs), that I went to a doctor and asked for a test…man, woman, person, camera, TV…I passed too!

Archbald-Pannone’s salient point is that memory loss becomes a problem when it interferes with one’s ability to do everyday activities. For instance, not remembering the name of someone you know but haven’t seen in a few years is not a problem; forgetting the name of someone you see everyday might be. Not remembering how to get to a restaurant you went to one time is probably not a problem; getting lost on the way to the dry cleaner you’ve gone to for years probably is.

The author points out that mild cognitive impairment is a natural part of aging and is usually not cause for alarm. In any case, it is always a good idea to keep one’s primary care physician apprised of any changes or concerns. Sometimes these changes are, in fact, the beginnings of something more serious.

It bears repeating (at least on my blog) that according to the the Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation’s website there are things we can do to prevent the onset of dementia. Their website lists: proper nutrition, mental activities, certain dietary supplements, and physical activity. The last one, of course, is the one that is most compelling to me. We know that cardiovascular exercise helps the heart, but when the heart is strong it helps the rest of the body. A healthy heart and vascular system is better able to circulate nutrient-rich blood to the cells. The better fed the cells, the healthier they remain. This includes brain cells. It bears repeating: physical activity becomes all the more important as we age.

To read Archbald-Pannone’s article, click here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/21/health/what-are-early-signs-of-dementia-wellness-partner/index.html.

And now, I’m off to the store to get some buttermilk…right?