by Jomel Bajar, PT,DPT,MS
We now knew that Okinawa, Japan as one of the 5 blue zone where people are living healthier and longer as compared to the rest of the world. Let us find out how Loma Linda as the only city in the United States of America that is included in the 5 Blue Zones in the world.
It is a fact that Loma Linda has an extremely high population of Seventh Day Adventist, which is more than a third of its population. Is this the reason why ? Statistics shows that people in Loma Linda, lives an extra decade of healthy, active, and productive lives as compared to the rest of the Americans with an average lifespan of 79 years of age.
Seventh Day Adventists believe in a Sabbath day of rest starting Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. During that time, they are focused to release their worries of the week, to relax, to disconnect with technology, and to find time to commune with God. A part of Seventh Day Adventist teachings is not to consume alcohol and to refrain from smoking. In fact, smoking is prohibited in the city of Loma Linda. This city boasts a significant lower incident in coronary heart disease and stroke as compared to average Californians.
It is easy to think that if we move to one of these beautiful longevity cultures called Blue Zone, that we could live to 100 without any problems. However, it is not as easy as that.
People in Loma Linda come together as a community more than anywhere else in the world. They tend to support each other towards a healthier activity and healthy behaviors. One can quickly assumes that it is not genetic since they have wide variety of people from European descent, African American descent, Hispanic descent, and from Asian descent. They share the same values to have a productive healthy life. A big part of their life is just focused on balance and wellness that include outdoor activities, diet of mainly vegetables, getting together, and connecting with the present moment by living meditatively.
Together with their sense of community, healthy lifestyle, and the belief in a higher power seems to be the most important component that Loma Linda community is so strong. They have a strong culture to connect to what matters to them. They are expert in being mindful to slowing down their lives either through social support, gathering, prayer, or even meditation. Meditation is a simple technique that has been around for thousands of years that help people get connected to the moment, to what matters most, to slow down and to be present in the moment. There has been published articles showing the people who are regular meditators are less ill and able to be more productive at workplace.
People living in this kind of environment are dynamically interacting every single activity with their environment. Science supports that our dynamic interaction with our environment modifies our genes. In essence, what we eat, think, or when we exercise, when we sleep, our relation, our lifestyle; all of these plus everything we do in our environment creates a dynamic conversation with our gene every single moment and is changing the expression of those genes to create health or diseases. Even though we inherited a short longevity gene, the way we chose to live can change that gene. Let us say that somebody is in a chaotic relationship, that person tend to turn-on genes that increase inflammation in their body as compare to a person who is in a loving, harmonious relationship who tends to turn-on genes that reduces inflammation.
In life, we are given a deck of cards of genes that we inherited, but it is not our destiny. Science proves, that our genetic predisposition can be modified. Researchers in Europe looked at the genetic component of longevity by studying same sex twins by separating the twins into two groups identical and non-identical. They were able to determine that genetics seem to only account for 25% of overall longevity, all others seemed to be environmental. That is the millions of little decisions we make every single day affects how long we live. Living in a constant stress and anxiety proves to shorten life span.
We do not need to be a Seventh Day Adventist to live longer and to live healthy. The great thing of having an efficient religious system like in Loma Linda is that it is very simple to live. People know where they fit in the world. There is something very relaxing and stress-free about knowing that the people you hang-out believes the same thing as you do. There is less stress, anxiety, and complications if we do not have to spend a lot of time explaining to anyone about our beliefs and values, at the same token less stress to listen to somebody explaining their values to us. It is a more peaceful life to just agree how everything is, where the universe came from, why we are here, and what we are supposed to do. You do not have to be Seventh Day Adventist to make this happen. Someone could be a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a Moslem; basic premise is they practice to worships. They honor and give gratitude to whoever they believe in. They honor love, appreciate life, and are grateful for whatever life brings to them. Belonging in an efficient religion gives someone the ability to express themselves and trusting that life is not happening TO them but FOR them at every moment. Less stressful and less anxiety in our life is related to improve longevity.
Summarizing Loma Linda longevity culture is simple:
1. That being of service to others and volunteering is important in our life and for our health.
2. That finding a higher purpose in life gives meaning to our existence
3. That connecting to our life present moment means enjoying what is happening in our life whatever that is, finding the positive side in any negative situation.
4. That finding reasons to come together as community whether it is to worship, camaraderie, or social support provides nourishment to our well-being
5. That living meditatively makes stress less therefore better and longer life.
Let us all age gracefully and embrace long life with vitality and energy. #livewithpassion