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Earth Sense: Secrets to a long, happy life

POSTED: April 26, 2014 10:59 p.m.

Throughout history, people have sought ways to extend the lifespan. Thanks to medical advances, those currently 30 and younger have a good chance to reach their 100th birthday.

In his books about “Blue Zones”, author Dan Buettner explains that there’s more to it than good medical care. His research shows the benefits of the “Power-9.” It’s not a new game in the Georgia Lottery, although he does concede that you need to win the “genetic lottery” to make it to 100.

Apart from this natural predisposition that some lucky people have, there are lifestyles which make it more likely. One is to “move naturally.” Brutal jogs and swim marathons serve athletes, but the average person gains more by simply staying active.

Having the “right tribe” is another of Buettner’s 9, stressing the importance of belonging to groups, cultivating friends and receiving family support. A “sense of purpose,” adding meaning to one’s life, can consist of dedication to a job or lifetime goal.

Equally important is to know how to relax. To some, it’s meditation and prayer. Others go to Happy Hour with a circle of friends. This “downshift” aspect can take many forms, including a hobby or playtime with family. 

Doctors will confirm the 80 percent rule: Stop eating before the stomach is completely full. It helps to control weight and prevents overindulgence. Obesity is a top health problem right now in the U.S., especially the South, and contributes to follow-up illnesses involving the heart, joints, high blood pressure and diabetes.

A diet relying heavily on meat, according to Buettner, is also contrary to high life expectancy. Societies with a “plant slant” tend to reach greater lifespans than others. Example areas are Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicaria (Greece) and others.

Alcohol is consumed in sufficient quantities around here, but health benefits are only seen in the moderate consumption of red wine. Equally important is a sense of belonging, and being an active member of a church or other religious group leads the list there. “Loved ones first” emphasizes the importance of keeping the family together, adding quality of life in multigeneration households. 

It’s unlikely that many will be able to integrate all of these points in their lives. But recognizing the importance of the elements of Buettner’s Power-9, and making some adjustments in one’s daily habits, can easily result in more years of enjoyable lifespan.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.


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