Cornerstone of Healthy Living

What better time than the abundant harvest of August to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet?  Nature’s bounty is brimming with colorful baskets of good nutrition ~ delicious ways to decrease your risk of heart disease, and many cancers, and to increase your chances of living a long and healthy life.

Notably, a recent study of the long-lived Okinawans (The Okinawa Program, How the World’s Longest-Lived People Achieved Everlasting Health – And How You Can Too, Clarkson Potter) has much in common with the work done by Dean Ornish, M.D. in prevention and reversal of heart disease.  First of all, a plant-based diet low in calories, abundant in fruits and vegetables (The Okinawans eat 9-17 servings of veggies daily!), low in animal protein and sodium.  Refined carbohydrates are avoided in favor of whole grains, and blood sugar stabilizing beans and soy foods are included.  The Okinawans also enjoy flavonoid-rich green tea and calcium rich vegetables instead of dairy products.

A dietary difference between Ornish and the Okinawans exists, however, in the fat content of the diet.  The Ornish program emphasizes very low fat, while the Okinawans include fresh fish, ground flaxseed, and walnuts rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.  Both include drinking lots of water and little or no alcohol.

Secondly, both the Ornish program and the Okinawans enjoy daily physical activity with walking as the cornerstone.  In addition, the Okinawans are avid gardeners ~ not only an effective way to work muscles, but a lovely way to connect with nature while growing fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers.

Thirdly, both those in the Ornish study and the Okinawans practice daily meditation.  For the Okinawans it is in the form of Tai chi, a gentle martial art which improves body balance while connecting the body to mind and spirit.  Last, and crucial to both lifestyles, connection and support:  Belonging to a community, working, playing and praying together.

Interestingly, many of the same lifestyle practices that make the Okinawans more likely than any other people to reach and exceed age 100 with lower rates of dementia, and which helped those in the Ornish study reverse heart disease, are similar to the practices identified in  a study done by the Center for Disease Control regarding Weight Control.  In that study, folks who had successfully maintained a 35-pound or greater weight loss for 5 years or more had 4 keys to success:

  1. An hour or more of daily exercise (totaling 2800 calories per week of exercise)

  2. They kept a food diary even after reaching goal weight (keeping track of those veggies!)

  3. They developed alternative ways of coping with stress (think tai chi, gardening, medication)

  4. Consistent support

So, if you want to live along and healthy life, address the four corners of well-being:  physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.  And remember, we are here to educate, encourage, and support you.

Enjoy the remaining days of summer and all its beauty.