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What can we do to Support Longevity?

Woman showing longevity

One thing that’s been on our minds in the Nutra-Life office recently is the whole ‘ageing gracefully’ concept. Some days it feels like a myth, we’re tired, we ache… Others we want to try everything in our power to hit each new decade with the same energy and drive as the last! We had a chat to Lynley, one of our amazing in-house naturopaths about some of the things we can do to support our longevity so we can do exactly that…

Firstly, what is ‘longevity’? What does it mean to you personally?

Longevity is defined as “long life” or “a great duration of life.” The term comes from the Latin word longaevitās. In this word, the words longus (long) and aevum (age) combine into a concept that means an individual who lives a long time. Longevity is also sometimes used as a synonym for “life expectancy” within certain demographics.

However, longevity to me refers to those who live particularly long-lives that exude health and vitality well into their golden years. Longevity is about having a good quality of life encompassing not only good physical health (with the absence of chronic degenerative diseases) but also good mental health and a sense of fulfilment and wellbeing throughout your life.

It never fails to intrigue me

As part of my everyday job, I speak to people over the phone about their health.  What always intrigues me is observing the people I get to talk to – particularly those in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Some are positive, cheerful and hopeful despite what they are going through with their health. Others sound pessimistic, weary and defeated.

I recently had a lady phone me who was 101 years young – she demanded to speak to the head of marketing as she wanted to voice her opinion about a certain product being discontinued as she said it helped to keep her healthy.  She sounded much younger than her 101 years and was full of self-assurance and determination.  I’m sure there were many reasons that would’ve attributed to her good health.  Her attitude for starters.

Is Longevity just about attitude?

It’s not necessarily the topic of the conversation that I have with these people over the phone, but their zest for life that shines through.  Some people seem to have it in spades despite their age or situation. They have a different attitude – usually a ‘make-the-most-of-it’ mindset and a ‘just-get-on-and-do-it’ attitude.

A typical comment might be “Well, I am ONLY 85!!!” They say it with such astonishment like ‘I can’t believe I have a health issue as I am only 85, so I need to sort this out!’ They typically sound much younger than their years.  Yet another person might say “Well I AM 70 years old, so of course I’m sick!!!”  They often sound older than their years, frustrated and discouraged.

I don’t know if attitude is statistically linked with longevity BUT the older people who I speak to that are positive and engaging are the ones who also seem to be immersed in life. They are part of a club or organization or are involved in their community and appear to be living long healthy lives – despite their circumstances and what life throws at them.

My own observation with a group of older ladies

I remember years ago I was helping out in a pharmacy doing bone density scans on patients for the first time. After I had scanned about half a dozen ladies (all between about 65 – 85 years old), I started to guess the ladies who were going to have a good strong bone density reading for their age –  and those that weren’t.  I was surprisingly accurate.  Not that I had any superpowers – and it was only a sample of a few dozen people, but the ladies that had particularly strong bones were different!  Their complexion wasn’t any smoother and they didn’t look younger than their years but their attitude was certainly different! They sounded different!

They also seemed to come across as quite robust, resilient no-fuss women who ate good wholesome food and seemed to be actively involved within their community.  Maybe it was just good genetics but it was fascinating to observe.

Is it ever too late to start thinking about our future longevity?

I don’t believe it is ever too late to start thinking about health and longevity.  No matter what age you are, any positive changes you make now can significantly improve your health in the future. In some cases,  they can even reverse some of the damage that may have been done in your younger years.

Can you suggest some habits we should adopt to support longevity?

There has been research done in areas in the world where people live longer and healthier lives more so than anywhere else on the planet. These “Blue Zone” regions are quite fascinating because the people there not only live longer, but the quality of their life is better. Besides having a strikingly high percentage of people that live to be over 100, the ageing population also remains active well into their 80 and 90s, and typically do not suffer the degenerative diseases common in most of the western world.

The 5 Places in the world where people live the longest

The five places in the world ­– dubbed blue zones – where people live the longest and are healthiest are:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California

Although food choices vary from region to region, Blue zone diets are primarily plant-based with as much as 95% of daily food intake coming from vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes.  People in blue zone diets typically avoid or have very little meat and dairy, as well as sugary foods and beverages.  They also steer clear of processed foods.

So is it all just about the food?

A wholesome diet isn’t the only factor thought to lead to longevity for those living in Blue Zones. These people also have:

  • High levels of physical activity
  • Low stress levels
  • Robust social connections
  • A strong sense of purpose.

10 Top tips for Longevity Based on Blue Zone Areas

  1. Move. Be physical throughout your day —be it walking, gardening or doing housework. It all adds up over the years and helps to maintain a strong healthy body.
  2. 80% Rule. Stop eating when you are 80% full and eat your largest meal at breakfast and your smallest at dinner.
  3. Have a Purpose. Knowing why you wake up in the morning makes you healthier, happier, and adds years of extra life expectancy.
  4. Plant based. 95% of your food items should be plant-based. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains round out the most of the diet and only eat meat in small amounts.
  5. Home grown. Grow your own veggies if possible (or buy local) and enjoy the time you spend cultivating them.
  6. Stress less. Stress is part of life, but centenarians appear to have stress-relieving rituals built into their daily routines eg. Nap, yoga, pray, laugh.
  7. Loved Ones First. Make time to spend with friends and family. Having close and strong family connections (with spouses, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren) is common with centenarians.
  8. Find your Tribe. The world’s longest-lived people have close friends and strong social networks.  Get involved in your community or volunteer your time to a worthy cause – whatever gives you a sense of purpose and makes you feel good.
  9. Wine. Moderate but regular consumption of wine (with friends and/or food) is part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
  10. Belong. Feeling like you belong to something bigger and being part of a community adds is said to add years to life expectancy.

Thanks to Lynley for answering our questions and these tips – we love the practical examples and knowing that there’s always something we can do to support longevity! If you have any questions about longevity, don’t hesitate to give our naturopaths a call.

The Nutra-Life team x