An article in the October ’08 issue of Bottom Line Health summarized the findings of John Robbins, who studies healthful lifestyle habits and is the author of Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples (Random House).
Those living the longest are found in “the valley of Vilcabamba in Ecuador, the Hunza region of Pakistan, the Japanese island of Okinawa and the republic of Abkhazia, near Russia. Many people in those areas live to be 100 and remain in remarkably good health up to the time of death.”
What are the reasons for such long, healthy lives in those regions? Robbins has found a number of practices and habits that add to longevity. The people get most of their protein from plant sources, including beans, peas, seeds and nuts. Only a minimum of animal-derived products are found in their diets. They also eat lots of good fat, from flaxseed, sesame and sunflower seeds, nuts and wild fish—getting very little saturated fat.
Their calories are relatively low. While the men are very active, they eat an average of about 1,900 calories a day, compared to the 2,650 calories taken in by the average American male.
Exercise includes lots of vigorous walking and, in some cases, mountain climbing. Studies show that frequent activity with the intensity of brisk walking significantly reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Another key to longevity, according to Robbins’ research, is a “deep sense of human connection.” In all four communities “people continually help one another, believe in one another and enjoy spending time with each other.”
He also discovered that people in those communities actually look forward to growing old, as they expect to be healthy, respected and considered wise. Other studies suggest that negative thoughts about aging can undermine a person’s health.