The world is full of specialists, technical experts, and people who love to complicate things. There is a minefield of misinformation out there that confuses us about how to cope with life. Exercising, eating, and getting our brains in gear have somehow become mysteries. Well, if I have any ability as a doctor, it is the ability to simplify complicated things.
Patients generally fall into two distinct groups: the single-cause patients and the multiple-cause patients. The former are those with an obvious medical or surgical emergency-a bacterial infection, for instance, or an injury as a result of a trauma or accident, such as a broken bone. Something that “good ol’ Doc” can help. The latter group, however, consists of patients with severe lifestyle ailments and diseases, such as stress, anxiety and depression, most heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments. The causative and precipitating factors are multiple-in most cases, researchers
mumble about genetics and so on-but perhaps the real culprits are the lousy foods most of us eat, our inactivity, the environmental pollutants (including radiation) we’re subjected to, and how pressured, unhappy, and dissatisfied most of us are.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. We’re always busy, and our lives are filled with stresses and strains. On top of that, we’re all up against an enormous number of people and entities that don’t care about our best health interests. You know who I mean; you know who I’m talking about. Fast-food restaurants, for instance, and clever companies that sell us the latest “healthy” cookies and muffins and chips. Uninformed healthcare providers are in the mix too-and so many others.
Well, despite all this you how you can love and eat your way to the ripe old age of 100.
You’re probably saying to yourself right now, “Hey, that’s impossible.” But I want you to know that it is possible. My research has shown me many people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s and beyond, who are younger in body and in mind, slimmer, happier, and healthier than many 40-year-olds. Believe me, it is possible. I constantly devour scientific papers and data, I have traveled and watched and learned from real people in many countries around the world-all to give you the best information available. Through my travels, I’ve learned the tried-and-true tools and techniques of longevity from the healthiest people on earth: the Okinawans, inhabitants of a large group of islands off Japan’s southernmost point. Everyone needs heroes in their life, and my heroes are the Okinawans.
The Okinawans have the greatest number of centenarians per capita in the world. Okinawans enjoy longer, healthier lives-lives mostly free of heart disease, strokes, and cancer. Only 6 in 100,000 women, for instance, die from breast cancer in Okinawa. If we look at the incidence of breast cancer rather than the death rate, more than 1 woman in 10 develops breast cancer in the United States. Okinawans are the longest living, healthiest, happiest people on the planet. How do they do it? Why are they so lucky? Personally, I don’t call it luck. I call it common sense.
A world-class team of researchers set out to find out what gave the Okinawans their health advantage. Over a 25-year period, from the mid-1970s to 2001, researchers aligned with and funded by the Japan Foundation for Aging and Health-and with help from the Mayo Clinic, Harvard University, the University of Toronto, the Medical Research Council of Canada, and the Ryukyu University Hospital in Japan-examined 600 Okinawan centenarians, and lots more young people in their 80s and 90s. That’s right: young people in their 80s and 90s. Imagine that! Known as the Okinawan Centenarian Study, the research found that elderly Okinawans have cleaner arteries and a lower number of hormone-dependent cancers than their younger American counterparts, and their bones are stronger. Similarly, Okinawans’ brains stay younger longer. In the United States, dementia usually starts around middle age-earlier than in Okinawa-and accelerates at a more rapid pace. Look at the striking differences in the older people. Amazingly, Okinawans remain younger longer, while we get older quicker. In addition to these findings, the study overturned a conventional belief about longevity. Contrary to what you’ve probably been told, longevity has less to do with heredity than most people realize.
Genetics, it turns out, accounts for only about 30 percent of our health and life span. The
Overwhelming other 70 percent is the result of specific lifestyle factors such as physical activity, eating habits, and social interactions. It’s these factors that explain why the Okinawans enjoy such long, happy lives. They don’t care about carbs or high-protein diets or Jenny Craig. They’ve never counted calories or ounces or grams of fat, and they’ve never been lazy enough to have food delivered to their door. Nor do they take “magic pills” or drink “miracle shakes” to replace real food at meal times. They’re not just built better (genetics); they also live better.
Now, I don’t expect you to live exactly like the Okinawans. Our lives are very different from theirs. I do, however, expect you to approach their ideals and shift your brain to a New Normal.