Taking My Life into My Hands

By now you’ve heard of Dan Buettner’s study, literature, and developing lifestyle and community brand, The Blue Zones. In a nutshell, Buettner explored geographical regions around the world that have higher populations of 90 and 100+ year-olds in their communities, and likely hold the secrets to longevity.

These communities spanned the globe and include Sardinia, Italy, Ikaria, Greece, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Japan, and the only Blue Zone comprised of a diverse people defined by similar beliefs and practices, Loma Linda, California. There, most of the participants in this study happen to be Seventh-day Adventists. And, Adventists, typically are vegetarians, avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and seriously check out of weekly stress during the seventh-day Sabbath. 

Similarities in diet and lifestyle choices emerged from all these communities, and the data extracted show nine common denominators, or “choices” that can lead to longevity. The people in the Blue Zones are more likely to:

  • move naturally
  • have a sense of purpose
  • downshift from stress
  • adopt the 80% rule, which translates to eating less
  • eat more plant foods, fewer animal products
  • consume wine (except for Adventists, see page 11)
  • belong to the same faith-based community  
  • prioritize family members, and keep aged loved ones close or in the home
  • have the “right tribe” or social circles of supportive people around them

“To make it to age 100, you have to have won the genetic lottery,” according to bluezone.com. “But most of us have the capacity to make it well into our early 90’s and largely without chronic disease. As the Adventists demonstrate, the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by adopting a Blue Zones lifestyle.”

High rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity among black people have me wondering where our Blue Zone is.* Wholistic medicine advocate, and physician, Theodore Watkins of the Washington D.C. area Watkins Institute addresses the rates of black health and black co-morbidities. The same health benefits and life-extending results can be seen in our communities, said Watkins. He is currently studying and writing about Blue “Black” Zones, in particular.

Watkins cited several studies that examined and compared autopsies of Ugandans with African Americans. There is global attention and study underway to curb the sharp rise of cardio vascular, and non-communicable disease on the continent. Watkins points out that the studies indicated the rarity of heart disease among rural Ugandans. People there are living to be 80, 90, 100 years old and beyond,” said Watkins. People in the cities, however, have a different result and profile.

“When they eat and live like Americans, they die like Americans,” said Watkins.

You may eat like an American, and may not live in a Blue Zone and your stress is at 100 every day. You eat to capacity, and then some, and may consume your meat-heavy and sugar laden meals alone, skipping both church, and family meals. Your numbers are off the charts, and your health isn’t what it should be. 

First, give yourself some grace, said Scott Stoll, a Nashville-based physician, lifestyle medicine expert, and a co-founder of the Plantrician Project. 

The culture drives us into the fluffy arms of the foods we eat, beverages we consume, substances we hit. It doesn’t have to drive us right over the edge though.

In 1890, Stoll said, Americans ate five pounds of sugar, compared to the 140 pounds today.

Americans consumed four pounds of oil, compared with 74 pounds today.

Americans ate two pounds of cheese, versus 32 pounds today.

Americans went from consuming 0 sugary soft drinks to 55 gallons a piece, per year currently.

For most of us, 2/3rds of our calories are coming from ultra-processed, ultra-dense sources. 

It’s not just you, your genetics, or your willpower. It’s bigger than that.

“Forgive yourself. Love yourself,” said Stoll. This is what we grew up doing. This is what our culture pushed, and what our families practiced. But then, to quote Maya Angelou, when we “know better, we do better” said Stoll.

Lifestyle starts with thinking and feeling, Watkins tells me. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23:7, first part). And, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones,” (Proverbs 17:22). 

We have the information, thus, we have the capacity to live longer. To live better. 

Check out this article to read about a Blue “Black” Zone in progress:

 

​The Black “Blue Zone”

 

This article is part of our 2024 March/April Issue
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