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5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth)

5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth)

There are places on earth where, if you don’t make it to 100, it’s almost unusual.

These places have been studied by scientists for decades and have been given a name: blue zones.

As it turns out, blue zones exist only in a few places on earth:

  1. Sardinia, Italy
  2. The islands of Okinawa, Japan
  3. Loma Linda, California
  4. Nicoya, Costa Rica
  5. Ikaria, Greece

But there’s one reason why these people have been studied so much by scientists.

Beyond just living to 100 in much higher rates than virtually anywhere else in the world, these people suffer from a fraction of the health issues that most westerners suffer from in their 30s, 40s, 50s and later.

Dementia, heart issues and depression are almost non-existent among these people. What this means it that these people live a fantastic quality of life their entire (long) lives – not just at the end.

That is why this research is so tremendously valuable to most of us.

What’s Wrong In the West?

In the United States, 50% of the people that die every year die from Heart Disease and Cancer – both of which are somewhat preventable.

We know that there are cultures on earth without heart disease.

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And we know that there are cultures on earth without cancer or incredibly low rates of cancer.

And we know that both have a very strong diet and lifestyle component. Yet we haven’t quite figured out why so many people are dying.

What’s amazing is that in these blue zone communities (in particular, Ikaria, Greece) cancer rates are a fraction of what they are in the west, heart disease rates are almost HALF of what they are, and dementia doesn’t even exist.

What that means is that not only do these people rarely get many of the diseases you and I would get (and thus live a more enjoyable, pain-free life), they enjoy optimal health throughout their entire lives – almost until the day they die.

By living a certain lifestyle, not only do you improve your health NOW, this ensures you avoid the major killers later in your life.

So rather than just saying “okay, but what if I don’t want to live to 100?” these suggestions will help you live an optimally healthy and happy life now.

So What Are These Similarities?

Longevity Venn Diagram

    Researchers ended up drawing conclusions between three of these particular groups: the Sardinians, the Okinawans, and the Loma Linda, California group.

    What’s interesting is that their “secrets” are not all tangible things.

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    I’m going to introduce you to the five similarities among the groups, which aren’t exactly secrets, and then after I’ll show you the individual secrets each of these cultures had. To me, the secrets are what come after these five.

    Here’s what they are:

    #1 Family

    Family is stressed as the most important thing in the lives of these people. It’s a priority to regularly see them, visit them, and interact with people part of their own tribe.  Virtually everything in these cultures revolves around social interaction.

    #2 No smoking (obvious)

    #3 Plant-based diet

    The major part of each meal was plants.

    Note: this does NOT mean they didn’t eat meat or carbohydrates. It means that (like I’ve recommended in this six pack article), the foundation of each meal is plants, followed by a smaller portion of meat or refined carbohydrates.

    #4 Constant low level of exercise (maybe not what you’re thinking of).

    When we usually think of physical activity these days, we usually think of going to the gym and hitting ithard.

    In reality, the people that regularly live to be the oldest aren’t going through extreme workouts – they’re just getting regular physical activity like gardening, hiking, or other labor required for farming. And they’re getting this activity every day.

    Regular low or moderate level exercise every day is their exercise.

    #5 Social engagement

    We see “social ties/family” as 2/5 key characteristics of people who live to 100.

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    Family and social ties make up an entire 30% of this “secret.” Pretty interesting, right?

    But what I wanted was specifics. Having a social life is great, but what was it about the specific characteristics of each culture that was enabling them to live to an old age?

    The Specific “Secrets” of Each Culture

    I want to quickly go into a bit of detail on each culture just so you can see how intangible some aspects of optimal health are.  Check out some of the qualities that researchers noted about each culture, that weren’t necessarily as concrete as “diet and exercise.”

    The Ikarian Secret

    The Ikarians in Greece have 10x the amount of people that reach 100, compared to the United States.

    Here are some of the really interesting things, tangible or otherwise, about them:

    • They put their family first and have really close family ties – stronger social ties have been linked to lower rates of depression and stress (Source).
    • They walk an average of 5 miles a day on uneven terrain (as shepherds).
    • They drink red wine – where studies usually show back and forth research on alcohol, red wine is packed with antioxidants – what’s interesting is that the Ikarian (like the Sardinian) variety of red wine has three times the normal levels of most red wine.

    Ikarians also have a more relaxed outlook on life and laugh whenever possible. (More on the studies behind the Ikarians here).

    The Okinawan Secret

    The Okinawans in Japan have a fascinating concept they partly attribute to their long lives, called ikigai– which is a reason for waking up in the morning. It’s almost like a purpose you give to life (or to the day). (Source)

    • They partly develop this ikigai by having incredibly strong social ties – friends and family that help provide emotional, physical and even financial support (+1 for friends!) (More on ikigai here).
    • Many of the local Okinawans have their own gardens that they play in daily (and obviously get food from, too).
    • The Okinawans also follow a mostly plant diet, but what’s interesting is that they also have a personal rule where they only eat until 80% full, called hari hachi bu.

    Some Okinawans in their 90s still even have an active sex life. Talk about impressive!

    Nicoya, Costa Rican Secret

    The Costa Ricans have a very similar rule as the Okinawans – they have something called a plan de vida – a reason to live (source).

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    • The plan de vida is essentially a purpose or meaning they give to life, which frequently revolves around their social circle or their family. Family is again a huge component of the Nicoya people’s lives.
    • The Nicoyans also believe in hard work, they rise with the sun, sleep at least 8 hours a night, and eat their biggest meal in the morning – and their smallest meal at night.

    ***

    The Million Dollar Question: Is Longevity “All About” Diet and Exercise?

    Honestly, we may never be able to synthesize and write a scientific article on “why” these people live long. We know diet, lifestyle, etc. are critical factors but there are probably many other intangible factors associated with their lifestyle of longevity and great health.

    I want to draw your attention to a few interesting things: the intangible aspects of these people’s lives.

    Their social circles. The importance of family.

    Having a “reason for living.”  Working very hard and being active (not in the gym!), but also having a relaxed mental attitude towards life so they aren’t getting overly stressed.

    What’s incredibly interesting about these blue zones is that we typically associate longevity and health with fitness and food. In reality, there is an entire mental, social, spiritual and psychological realm that is equally as important.

    What About You?

    Are you making sure to take into account the intangible aspects of health? Your “social” health, your mental health, your “happiness” health, your spiritual health?

    All these factors play much more into health and longevity than you might think. Eating right and exercise are fantastic tools and critical for health, but so is inner cultivation and the cultivation of friendships.

    5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth) | Personal Excellence

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    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

    Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

    Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

    Your brain is the most intricate and powerful organ in your entire body. It’s essentially a super-computer with brain power like a Ferrari.

    If you have a Ferrari, would you put cheap gasoline in it? Of course not. You want to put in high-octane performance fuel to get the most out of your investment.

    When it comes to the brain, many people are looking for the top foods that will supercharge the brainpower to help focus better, think more clearly and have better brain health.

    In this article, we’ll look at the top 9 brain foods that will help create supercharge your brain with energy and health:

    1. Salmon

    Salmon has long been held as a healthy brain food, but what makes this fish so valuable for your brain health?

    It’s important to understand that your brain is primarily made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat. One of the most important fats that the brain uses as a building block for healthy brain cells is omega-3’s.

    Omega-3’s are essential for building a healthy brain but one of the most important omega-3’s for your brain is DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) forms nearly two-thirds of the omega-3’s found in your brain.[1]

    Omega-3’s and DHA in particular help form the protective coating around our neurons. The better quality this coating is, the more efficient and effective our brain cells can work, allowing our brain power to work at full capacity.

    Studies have shown that being deficient in DHA can affect normal brain development in children, which is why so many infant formulas and children’s supplements are beginning to include DHA.

    Being deficient in DHA as an adult can cause focus and attention problems, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and poor sleep.

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    2. Blueberries

    Blueberries top the list as one of the most beneficial fruits to maximize your brain health and performance.

    Blueberries have some of the highest content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, than any other fruit, which helps protect the brain from stress and promote healthy brain aging.

    Blueberries antioxidant content also help reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to maintain healthy energy levels.

    Blueberries have begun to receive attention for their connection to brain performance.[2] Studies have demonstrated that eating blueberries on a regular basis can not only improve brain health but also brain performance as well including working memory.[3]

    Blueberries not only taste great but are low in calories, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

    3. Turmeric

    Turmeric is a very impressive spice that has well-researched and proven to have tremendous benefits for your brain. Turmeric’s main compound that benefits the brain is called curcumin, which is responsible for turmerics bright yellow appearance.

    Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties.[4]

    Curcumin increases the production and availability of two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved with happiness, motivation, pleasure, and reward.

    Curcumin has been well documented to have powerful anti-depressive effects. In one study, it was found to be as effective for depression as popular medications such as SSRI’s like Prozac.[5]

    Curcumin has also been shown to:

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    • Increase blood flow to the brain.[6]
    • Increase BDNF production, a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity.[7]
    • Increase DHA availability and synthesis in the brain.[8]
    • Increase antioxidant levels in the brain to prevent brain aging and inflammation.[9]

    4. Coffee

    Coffee is the wonderful elixir of energy that many people cherish every single morning. The biggest reason people drink coffee is to get a dose of caffeine.

    Caffeine is a natural neurological stimulant that not only gives you energy but also prevents adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved with feeling tired, from binding in the brain.

    Many people are surprised to find that coffee actually contains a large quantity of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are important for reducing inflammation in the brain and keep your brain energized. The antioxidants in coffee also provide a neuroprotective effect, protecting the brain from stress and damage. [R]

    Coffee can also:

    • Improve alertness and concentration.[10]
    • Help with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.[11]
    • Reduce your risk of depression.[12]
    • Improve your memory.
    • Provide short-term boost in athletic performance.[13]

    5. Broccoli

    What was your least favorite food as a kid growing up?

    Most likely, broccoli was your answer.

    Broccoli may not have been your top choice, but it might be the top choice for your brain.

    Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to promote the proliferation and survival of brain cells by reducing inflammation and boosting production of BDNF. It has also been shown to boost neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.[14]

    Broccoli is also loaded with important nutrients Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin K plays a vital role in protecting brain cells.[15] Folate plays a crucial role in detoxification and reducing inflammation in the brain.

    6. Bone broth

    Bone broth wasn’t just created to combine with soups, you can actually drink bone broth by itself.

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    Drinking bone broth has become one of the biggest trends in the health and wellness industry and for good reason. Bone broth isn’t actually a new thing. Bone broth has been used for centuries as a healing tonic to promote health and longevity.

    Much of the nutritional benefits and value of bone broth comes from its substantial vitamin and mineral content. Primarily calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

    Your gut is called your second brain for a reason. Research continually shows that there is a direct and indirect connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut also houses and stores many important brain compounds involved with optimal brain performance. Therefore the health of your gut is vitally important for your brain health and performance.

    Bone broth has become a go-to tool for helping heal the gut and provide the gut with the vital nutrient and resources it needs to heal and perform optimally.

    With the vast amounts of nutrients that bone broth contains, it makes the list as a go-to food for your brain health.

    Look for high quality, organic bone broth for the best results.

    7. Walnuts

    Walnuts are one of the top choices of nuts for brain health. Walnuts also look similar to a brain.

    Amongst the wide variety of nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amounts of the important omega-3 DHA. DHA, as seen above, is a critical building block for a healthy brain.

    Walnuts also contain high amounts of antioxidants, folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help to lower inflammation.

    Melatonin in walnuts is an important nutrient for regulating your sleep. Having low amounts of melatonin can make it challenging to get good quality sleep and getting poor quality sleep can dramatically impair brain health and performance.

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    8. Eggs

    For years, eggs were put on the nutritional naughty list; but now, eggs are finally getting the credit they deserve. Eggs can provide a tremendous boost to your brain health and longevity.

    Eggs, particularly the yolks, contain a compound called choline. Choline is essential for building the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in mood, memory, and intelligence.

    Egg yolks contain some of the highest quantities of choline. This is very important because low levels of choline can lead to low levels of acetylcholine, which in turn can cause increased inflammation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

    9. Dark chocolate

    You’re about to love chocolate even more because chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is great for your brain.

    Chocolate boosts levels of endorphins, your brains “feel good” chemicals. This is why you feel so good eating chocolate.[16]

    Chocolate also increases blood flow to the brain which can help improve memory, attention, focus, and reaction time.[17]

    Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which has been coined “natures valium” for its ability to calm and relax the brain.

    Lastly, dark chocolate has one of the highest antioxidant profiles out of any other food, including popular superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, or pomegranates.[18]

    Conclusion

    Your brain is a high performing organ and it uses quite a lot of energy, roughly 20% of the bodies energy demands.

    In order to maintain a healthy brain, you need the right fuel to ensure that your brain has all the nutrients it needs to perform as well as adapt to the stress of life.

    If you want to keep your brain performing well for a lifetime, then you want to make sure you are including as many of these brain health foods as possible.

    More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function
    [2] Canadian Science Publishing: Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation
    [3] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
    [4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.
    [5] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
    [6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of combined treatment with curcumin and candesartan on ischemic brain damage in mice.
    [7] Science Direct: Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB
    [8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.
    [9] PLOS: A Chemical Analog of Curcumin as an Improved Inhibitor of Amyloid Abeta Oligomerization
    [10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans
    [11] American Academy of Neurology: A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
    [12] American Academy of Neurology: AAN 65th Annual Meeting Abstract
    [13] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C.
    [14] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Hyperammonemia induces glial activation, neuroinflammation and alters neurotransmitter receptors in hippocampus, impairing spatial learning: reversal by sulforaphane
    [15] Oxford Academic: Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions
    [16] Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D: Chocolate and Mood Disorders
    [17] Health Magazine: Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
    [18] Chemistry Central Journal: Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products

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