For healthy New Year's habits, learn from the world's longest-lived villages

Family preparing fresh salad in a garden.

Family preparing fresh salad in a garden.

Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

Family preparing fresh salad in a garden.

Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

This story was originally published in 2016.

As a doctor, I am often asked for medical advice from friends, family, even new acquaintances: What about this diet? What should I do about this symptom? What happens is medication?

People generally get disappointed when I don't share their enthusiasm for the latest health fashions. My family members, in particular, often feel disappointed by my medical advice.

I will be the first to admit that I don't always do a great job in conveying why I am skeptical about the latest medical technology, the latest news and health fashions reports and even people's symptoms. Mainly it is because, in my experience, so much about health is not so simple.

Most symptoms, after all, are not explainable, at least at the level of detail that we all seem to want. "What is causing my symptoms?" Friends, family and patients ask me. It's a virus? The bacteria? Arterial blockage?

Despite all the science and technology in medicine, what doctors do is more about educating guesses. Especially in primary care, it is often a matter of playing the odds rather than providing accurate diagnostic information.

But prevention is different. We know a lot about it, based on large bodies of epidemiological research. Most prevention is quite simple. You have heard the advice over and over again. In fact, repetition can facilitate disconnection.

However, I will take a chance and tell you again that there really are no shortcuts to health. This is what you should do:

I have come across a couple of sources that do a good job of transmitting these messages. One is a set of books and ideas about the so-called Blue Zones of the world. If you have not heard of them, the Blue Zones are the places in the world where people have the longest and healthiest lives.

People in these communities often live more than 100 years:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California.

In these places, people have preventive medications in their lives, especially without even having to think about it. Their daily activities involve eating healthy diets rich in local plants, walking in most places and a lot of intergenerational social interaction.

Interestingly, people in these communities generally drink alcohol. But they limit it to one or two drinks a day. In addition, they usually eat meat, but not very often and in small portions. (Loma Linda may be an exception, with its large population of Seventh-day Adventists).

One thing that probably won't surprise you: the Blue Zoners do do not eat refined sugars Convenient packaged foods for which we are trained to eat are skipped because they are cheap and widely available.

Summarizing these issues visually in less than two minutes It is another jewel of the laboratory of ideas of Dr. Mike Evans of Toronto. You have seen some of his other videos here. I love them. Just look at the following, and follow their advice. That is what I try to do in my own life.


John Henning Schumann is a writer and doctor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is president of the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa. He also hosts Public Radio Tulsa & # 39; s Medical matters. He is on Twitter: @GlassHospital