Taking a Leaf from The Sardinians to Increase Longevity
Have you ever heard of the small cluster of villages in Sardinia, sometimes referred to as The Blue Zone, whose population commonly live to see 100? A genetic marker and an isolated culture have shown to increase the average life expectancy for this unique island. We might not be able to change our genetics but we can take a leaf out of the Sardinian’s book to a healthy lifestyle 1. In this vybey article we’ll deep dive into how to increase your longevity and also understand the Sardinian’s secrets to living to see 100.
Eat a Range of Plant-Based Foods
Consuming a wide range of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains have been shown to decrease the risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, metabolic disease and depression; and can even improve overall life expectancy 2 with some studies have even linked an increased risk of premature death with a high level of meat consumption 3. The Sardinians eat a diet consisting mostly of plant-based food with meat largely consumed on Sundays and special occasions [1.Plant-based foods are high in nutrients, antioxidants such as polyphenols 4 and vitamins such as vitamin C 5.vybey’s nutritional meal replacement shake is packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, ensuring you have everything you need for a nutritious meal; and given that vybey is suitable for vegetarians, we don’t need to worry about meat consumption.
Increase Your Nut Intake
Nuts are rich in protein, fibre and antioxidants and are also high in several vitamins and minerals such as copper, magnesium, potassium and vitamins B6 and vitamin E. Studies have shown that regular nut intake can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. Despite nuts being high in fats, studies have not been able to link an increase in nut intake to an increase in BMI 6. Simply consuming at least three servings of nuts a week can significantly reduce your risk of premature death 7 8
Regulate Your Calorie Intake and Avoid Overeating
Calorie control and regulation has long been linked with longevity and a lower likelihood of disease 9. Human populations known for their long life expectancy often enjoy fresh produce in moderation without overeating 10. Despite research showing that calorie regulation has significant benefits to human health, it is important to note that calorie regulation and calorie restriction are two different things. Excessive calorie restriction will have a detrimental impact on our ability to regulate our metabolism and can cause fatigue or nutrient deficiencies however, more research is needed to fully understand the impact of calorie restriction 11. vybey’s meal replacement can support provides all the necessary nutrients in one drink helping you feel fuller for longer and reducing your risk of overeating.
Drink Tea or Coffee (In Moderation)
Believe it or not, coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease and even some cancers 12. Furthermore, studies have shown that tea and coffee drinkers often benefit from up to a 30% decreased risk of early death compared to those who don’t 13. However, it’s important to strike the right balance in order to prevent caffeine induced anxiety and insomnia, which will obviously have a significant impact on your mental and physical health 14.
Moderate Alcohol Intake
We’ve known for a long time that consuming large amounts of alcohol has been linked with heart, liver, pancreatic disease and an increased risk of early death 15. However, moderate intake of wine is associated with a reduction in a number of diseases 16 due to their high levels of antioxidants that can protect from heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and neurological disorders 17.This is a fact not lost on the Sardinians who strike the right balance of drinking Cannonau wine in moderation 1. However, don’t get too carried away as there is no strong research proving the benefits of drinking moderately are greater than those of not drinking any alcohol 18.
Exercise, Even Just a Little Bit
Studies have shown that as little as fifteen minutes of exercise a day can have significant health benefits and even those exercising less than the recommended two and a half hours a week still experience a 22% reduced risk of early mortality 19. Sardinian shepherds often walk over five miles a day which greatly benefits the cardiovascular system and metabolism 1. Walking provides physical benefits without the joint damage that comes with running and other forms of exercise 1 and is therefore more accessible for those who struggle to exercise.
Let’s be honest, this is an obvious one. Smoking can reduce as much as ten years off your life expectancy and can cause an endless list of complications such as bronchitis and persistent coughing, heart disease, high cholesterol, a poor immune system, infertility, constricted blood vessels, COPD, diabetes complications, and even cancer 20.However, it’s well documented that those who quit smoking can significantly increase your life expectancy; and even better, it’s never too late to quit. Click here for NSW government resources to help you quit smoking.
Develop a Consistent Sleeping Pattern
Sleep plays a vital role in human health by regulating our cell function allowing our bodies to heal 21. Research has found that those with regular sleep patterns are more likely to live longer than those with a chaotic sleep pattern 22. On the flip side, excessive sleep can be linked to poor physical activity or an undiagnosed health condition 23. We are very passionate about sleep at vybey and have even written a blog post about the importance of sleep and how to step up your sleep game. You can read the full blog post here.
Spend Some Time in Nature
A little as twenty minutes in nature a day has been shown to efficiently lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and could even be prescribed by doctors as a way of combating stress. Here are some simple tips to help you get the most from your stress busting twenty minutes in nature. Unplug: try to absorb as much as possible, this means no cheating, try to unplug from devices, books and work. This is a great excuse to turn your phone off and enjoy everything our beautiful environment has to offer. Be one with the trees and find somewhere as calm and settled as possible, take some time to relax and just be; remember, no cheating, focus on your breath.
Nurture Your Social Circle
Ever heard the phrase laughter is the best medicine? Well men living in Sardinia are known for their sense of humour. They often meet to laugh both with and at each other 1. Laughter has been shown to reduce stress hormones and increase the number of cells that fight infection and can even decrease your risk of heart disease 24. Now more than ever, we understand the importance of social interaction with others and how it can benefit our mental health; but research has shown that having just three social ties can increase your chances of living longer 25. Social interactions can help to improve our heart, brain, hormonal and immune health 26 and have been proven to help regulate our reaction to stressful situations, in turn improving our mental and physical health 27.Additionally, caring for someone, and having someone care for us, has also been shown to improve our health 28.
Prioritize Your Happiness
An eighty-year-old study from Harvard University has proven that being happy can actually increase your life expectancy. The study followed a large number of Harvard students, including former President John F. Kennedy, throughout their lives to see if factors such as happiness, fitness and career success had a significant impact on their life span. I should point out that this study only followed male students as Harvard was exclusively all male in 1938, thereby limiting the effectiveness of the study but the results still clearly show that alumni who were happy often lived longer 29.
Strong emotions such as chronic stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on our physical health and studies have shown women who suffer from stress and anxiety are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and even lung cancer 30 26.However, there are many simple ways to increase your happiness, starting with daily gratitude and positive thinking. Replacing negative self-talk with positive thinking can help you to remain calm and handle situations more effectively. The next time you find yourself thinking “I’ve never done this before” try switching your thought process to “this is an opportunity to learn something new”.
Longevity can seem beyond our control and there is still so much we don’t know about human life expectancy, but if the Sardinians have taught us anything, it’s that healthy habits can help you live to a ripe old age. Habits as simple as exercising, getting enough sleep, limiting your alcohol intake and drinking tea or coffee can help boost your physical and mental health and put you on the path to a long and fulfilled retirement.
1 Blue Zone, (2021). Sardinia, Italy: Home to The World’s Longest-Living Men. Blue Zone. [online]. Available from https://www.bluezones.com/exploration/sardinia-italy/
[2Knoops, K., De Groot, L., Kromhout, D., Perrin, A., Moreiras-Varela, O., MENOTTI, A., STAVEREN, W., (2004). Mediterranean Diet, Lifestyle Factors and 10 Year Mortality in Elderly European Men and Women: The HALE Project. Journal of The America Medical Association. [online]. 292(12), pp. 1433-1439. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15383513/
3 Sinha, R., Cross, A., Graubard, B., Leitzmann, M., Schatzkin, A., (2009). Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People. Archives of Internal Medicine. [online]. 169(6), pp. 562-571. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19307518/
[4Petre, A., (2019). What are Polyphenols? Types, Benefits and Food Sources. Healthline. [online]. Available from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/polyphenols
5 Chrysohoou, C., Stefanadis, C., (2013). Longevity and Diet: Myth or Pragmatism? Maturitas. [online]. 76(4), pp. 303-307. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24210636/
[6Brufau, G., Boatella, J., Rafecas, M., (2006). Nuts: Sources of Energy and Macronutrients. National Center for Biotechnology Information. [online]. 99(2), 447-448. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17125529/
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8Guasch-Ferre, M., Bullo, M., Martinez-Gonzalez, A., et al., (2013). Frequency of Nut Consumption and Mortality Risk in The Predimed Nutrition Intervention Trial. National Center for Biotechnology Information. [online]. 11(164), pp. 1-11. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23866098/
9 Wilcox, B., Wilcox, D., Todoriki, H., Fujiyoshi, A., Yano, K., He, Q., Curb, D., Suzuki, M., (2007). Caloric Restriction, The Traditional Okinawan Diet and Healthy Aging: The Diet of The World’s Longest-Lived People and Its Potential Impact on Morbidity and Life Span. National Center for Biotechnology Information. [online]. 1114(1), pp. 434-455. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17986602/
10Tucci, C., (2020). How to Live to 100: Lessons from Italy. My Lifespan. [online]. Available from https://www.lifespan.org/lifespan-living/how-live-100-lessons-italy
11 Petre, A., (2017). 5 Ways Restricting Calories Can Be Harmful. Healthline. [online]. Available from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/calorie-restriction-risks
[12Dieren, S., Uiterwaal, C., Van Der Schouw, Y., Van Der A, D., Boer, J., Spijkerman, A., Grobbee, D., Beulens, J., (2009). Coffee and Tea Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetolgia. [online]. 52(1), pp. 2561-2569. Available from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-009-1516-3
13 Lopez-Garcia, E., Van Dam, R., Li, T., Rodriguez-Artalejio, F., Hu, F., (2008). The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality. Annals of Internal Medicine. [online]. 148(12), pp. 904-914. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18559841/
14Bhatti, S., O’keefe, J., Lavie, C., (2013). Coffee and Tea: Perks for Health and Longevity? Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. [online]. 16(6), pp. 688-697. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24071782/
15 Movva, R., Figueredo, V., (2013). Alcohol and The Heart: To Abstain or Not to Abstain? International Journal of Cardiology. [online]. 164(3), pp. 267-276. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22336255/
16Castelnuovo, A., Costanzo, S., Bagnardi, V., Donati, M., Lacoviello, L., Gaetano, G., (2006). Alcohol Dosing and Total Mortality in Men and Women: An Updated Meta-Analysis of 34 Prospective Studies. Archives of Internal Medicine. [online]. 166(22), pp. 2437-2445. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17159008/
17 Arranz, S., Chiva-Blanch, G., Valderas-Martinez, P., Medina-Remon, A., Lameula-Raventos, R., (2012). Wine. Beer, Alcohol and Polyphenols on Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer. Nutrients. [online]. 4(7), pp. 759-781. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407993/
[18Petre, A., (2019). 13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science). Healthline. [online]. Available from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-habits-linked-to-a-long-life#TOC_TITLE_HDR_10
19 Help Guide, (2021). Laughter is the Best Medicine. Help Guide. [online]. Available from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm
20Marcin, J., (2019). The Effects of Smoking on the Body. Healthline. [online]. Available from https://www.healthline.com/health/smoking/effects-on-body
21 Mazzotti, D., Guindalini, C., Santos Moraes, W., Andersen, M., Cendoroglo, M., Ramos, L., Tufik, S., (2014). Human Longevity is Associated with Regular Sleep Patterns, Maintenance of Slow Wave Sleep and Favourable Lipid Profile. Front Aging Neuroscience. [online]. 6(1), pp. 134. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4067693/
[22Cappuccio, F., D’elia, L., Strazzullo, P., Miller, M., (2010). Sleep Duration and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Sleep. [online]. 33(5), pp. 585-592. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864873/
23 Stranges, S., Dorn, J., Shshipley, M., Kandala, N., Trevisan, M., Miller, M., Donahue, R., Hovey, K., Ferrie, J., Marmot, M., Cappuccio, F., (2008). Correlates of Short and Long Sleep Duration: A Cross-Cultural Comparison Between the United Kingdom and the United States: The Whitehall II Study and the Western New York Health Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. [online]. 168(12), pp. 1353-1364. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18945686/
24Hupin, D., Roche, F., Gremeaux, V., Chatard, J., Oriol, M., Gaspoz, J., Barthelemy, J., Edouard, P., (2015). Even a Low-Dose of Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity Reduces Mortality by 22% in Adults Aged More Than 60 Years: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. [online]. 49(19), pp. 1262-1267. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26238869/
25 News in Health, (2017). Do Social Ties Affect Our Health? News in Health. [online]. Available from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/02/do-social-ties-affect-our-health#:~:text=Wide%2Dranging%20research%20suggests%20that,stress%20and%20heart%2Drelated%20risks.
26Uchino, B., (2006). Social Support and Health: A Review of Physiological Processes Potentially Underlying Links to Disease Outcomes. Journal of Behavioural Medicine. [online]. 29(4), pp. 377-387. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16758315/
27 Thoits, P., (1995). Stress, Coping and Social Support Processes: Where are We? What Next? Journal of Health and Social Behaviour. [online]. 1(1), pp. 53-79. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7560850/
28Psychological Science. (2017). Caring for Others Can Bring Benefits. Psychological Science. [online]. Available from https://www.caregiverstress.com/stress-management/daughters-in-the-workplace/benefits-of-caring-for-others-canada/
29 Mineo, L., (2017). Harvard Study, Almost 80 Years Old, Has Proved That Embracing Community Helps Us Live Longer and Happier. The Harvard Gazette. [online]. Available from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/
[30Denollet, J., Maas, K., Knottnerus, A., Keyzer, J., Pop, V., (2009). Anxiety Predicted Premature All-Cause and Cardiovascular Death in a 10-Year Follow-Up of Middle-Aged Women. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. [online]. 62(4), pp. 452-456. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19013760/