According to a famous Danish Twin study (Hum Genet 1996; 97: 319- 323):
The authors studied twins to determine the extent to which genetics impacts longevity. The study established that less than 25 percent of how long the average person lives is dictated by genes. In other words, most of how long and how well you live is up to you! By looking at human physiology, the average age expectancy should be about 90; however, current life expectancy is around 78. While this number continues to rise for women, the facts show that on average, we are leaving about 12 years on the table.
To garner a better understanding of this, an interesting project supported by the National Geographic Society and the National Institute on Aging is studying those populations with the greatest life expectancy. These areas are called “Blue Zones”, and include Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Sardinia, Italy.
As research has shown, people in Blue Zones share common characteristics that I believe to be significant. What’s most noteworthy is those who live to 90 and beyond aren’t necessarily those who run ultra-marathons, climb the corporate ladder or take artificial hormones. The nine “rules” that I believe contribute to a long life are:
1. Move naturally
Natural movement occurs when people live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving: they walk to the store, to their friends house or places of worship; their houses have stairs; they have gardens in their yards.
Consider making things a little inconvenient. Take an extra trip up or down the stairs instead of loading things at the top or bottom to take up later; avoid the moving walkway on your way to your airport gate; park far from the entrance; walk a dog; do your own yard and house work; get rid of those time-saving electronics and other equipment that has “simplified” your life.
2. Right outlook
Why do you wake up in the morning and what gets you out of bed? Look inside and do an internal inventory. Understand your sense of purpose through your values, passions, gifts and talents. In addition, eliminate stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation which is associated with every major age-related disease.
Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors; Adventists pray; Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians have happy hour. Find a stress-reducing strategy that works for you and make it routine. In my opinion, the best way to reduce stress is to practice breathing exercises, yoga or meditation.
3. Eat wisely
I heard a great quote the other day, “If you really want to lose weight, cook what