Have you heard of the “blue zones” full of communities of people who stay young and live a healthy life well into their nineties or even over a hundred? Have you believed that it’s just for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again…your genes are not your destiny. The power for a long healthy life lies in your hands. Let me help you learn how.
Lifestyle factors (i.e. the things you do every day over the long-term) add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan. Making healthy choices not only makes logical sense, but these choices also impact our gene expression for the better. Did you know that food affects gene expression?
The Blue Zones I mentioned above are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations. They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California. But do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? Nope!
My top recommendations on how to focus your health choices for maximum benefit to yourself is:
- Know your genetic variants and learn what they mean in terms of your risk factors
- Use that information in combination with your symptoms to create a focused plan that is unique to you.
Your personal plan will likely include a lot of common-sense healthy habits that promote health and longevity, but you will have the added benefit of knowing what is of particular importance for you to focus on.
Creating Your Focus for Longevity
Eat a Plant-rich Diet
Blue Zone residents eat a heavily plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. But, it’s important to note that even with a whole, foods, plant-heavy diet, animal foods aren’t avoided.
And there are certain genetic variants associated with better weight management and neurotransmitter function with higher levels of protein in the diet. So if you know your genetic predispositions, you can tailor your diet accordingly.
Include Healthy Fats
Longevity is associated with increased heart-healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and fish. Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.
But eating enough fat is even more important for some people with specific gene variants who can improve serotonin levels and weight management with increased fat consumption compared to others.
Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full
This is associated with the Japanese Hara Hachi bu idea of eating until you are 80% full. Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness. They eat slowly, chew their food thoroughly and give their brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat.
However, this can be more challenging for those who have the genetic variant that predisposes them to snack because they have less control over appetite regulation. I discuss this here. In this case, I recommend focusing on making the habit to reach for healthy options since appetite regulation is more challenging.
Drink Red Wine
Enjoying a glass of red wine a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease. It’s important to note here that 4oz of wine is considered a glass! And drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects.
Also, if you have a genetic predisposition to alcohol dependence, then this habit may not be right for you.
Move Your Body Throughout the Day
Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time. Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality.
Looking for opportunities to add any kind of movement into your regular routines is a good idea. But if you know your gene variants, then you can tailor your focus to what your body will most benefit from and respond to (i.e. cardio vs strength training), and what your risk of injury is.
You might try:
- Stretching while you watch tv
- Take an after-dinner evening walk
- Park farther away from your destination
- Choose stairs over elevators
- Take stretching (or dancing!) breaks at work
- Use a stand-up workstation to move between sitting and standing during the day
The world’s longest living people include the above strategies into their regular routines. But knowing your genetic variations can help you to focus on what will be most beneficial for you for health and longevity. Want to know how you can find out? Book a call with me here and I will explain all the details.