Cracking the Code of Longevity

The process of getting older knocks loudly, persistently, and insistently on our door, and reminds us of what is the inevitable end. Wouldn’t you love to find the proverbial fountain of youth? The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has defined ageing as “the accumulation of diverse deleterious changes occurring in cells and tissues with advancing age that are responsible for the increased risk of disease and death” (2008). According to the CIA, people in the United States have an average life expectancy of 79, in the United Kingdom a little higher at 80, Canada comes in at 82, while for Afghanistan it is only about 50. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for the Hunza and the Okinawans, two populations isolated in some remote regions on this incredible planet, to live well past 100 and even up to 130 and 140 years of age. The Hunza are indigenous to an inaccessible valley in a northern point of India, and the people from Okinawa reside on one of the beautiful Japanese islands. These populations have the lowest mortality rate from chronic diseases and conditions, and they benefit from not only the best health but also the longest life expectancy across the globe. So should we conclude that longevity is genetically inherited?

What’s the Secret of the Hunza and the Okinawans?

While Genetics is indeed part of the answer, a multitude of scientific studies points to a cluster of factors which include the environment, free radical damage, the place where we live, the foods we consume and the activities of our daily life as contributing to ageing. Since the Hunza and the Okinawans seem to have cracked the code of longevity, what can we learn from them? There really is no secret to their longevity and it intelligibly comes down to what research and health cohorts have been promoting all along. Both populations believe in a healthy diet together with a natural and holistic lifestyle.

Healthy Diet

The Hunza and Okinawans naturally eat a high-fiber, low-caloric diet with a low glycemic load and only consume about 1,900 calories a day over just two meals (note that the average American consumes more than 3,000 calories daily). They grow much of their food themselves in carefully-nurtured organic compost without the use of pesticides or herbicides in order to maintain the value of the micronutrients and reduce chemical exposure. This is their typical diet:

  • Good fats such as omega-3 and unsaturated with little bad fats such as saturated and trans;
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables usually raw or steamed including peas, carrots, turnips, squash, greens, apples, pears, peaches, watermelon, apricots, cherries, blackberries and seaweed;
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts;
  • Protein in the form of milk, yogurt, cheese, soy, and little meat except for poultry and eggs;
  • No sugar, salt or empty calories;
  • Grains including quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet, brown rice and little white flour;
  • Plenty of water and herbal teas.

Lifestyle and Psychospiritual Health

In order to remain healthy and reduce the risk of disease and disability, the Hunza and the Okinawans thrive in their natural environment: they bathe in pristine sources of water and get plenty of exercise while promoting serenity and total peace of mind. These are some of the activities and practices they regularly engage in:

  • Walking, gardening, dance, martial arts and physical activity for at least an hour daily;
  • Yoga and Yoga breathing;
  • Meditate daily;
  • Live in the moment;
  • Positive and responsible thinking;
  • Plenty of sunshine;
  • Fasting periods that may last for several days.

In conclusion

The Hunza and Okinawans capitalize on making the most of what they have, which not only extends their life but also promotes an elderly population that is lean, healthy, and free of osteoporosis. Enhancing their genetic predispositions they enjoy an energetic and mentally fit lifespan that is nearly completely free of hormone-dependent cancers, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, obesity and other chronic conditions associated to high inflammation.

Clearly cracking the code of longevity is not that complicated! There are definitive ways of slowing the ageing process down such as having strong familial ties, living in a non-toxic environment or a city/town that promotes and encourages ecologic responsibility, eating a healthful diet, getting plenty of exercise and avoiding stress.

Leslie Olsen has a Master’s degree in Health Policy. She is a Published Author, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Health Coach, Fitness Coaching Specialist and Licensed Massage Therapist. You can contact her and read other articles she has written on LinkedIn.