Secrets to a Healthy Life from Centenarians

What makes people healthy?

As a health coach I strive to find the answers for myself and my clients, yet I know there isn’t one answer. Even doctors and health experts can’t agree and all have varying theories.

What we do know is everyone is different and no two people will benefit from the exact same regiment. So as much as I would like to tell you all to eat this vegetable, drink this tea, do this workout and get your sleep. It just isn’t that simple!

Or is it? Maybe we’re making health all too complicated.

Just take a look at these centenarians, people who are living into their 100s and doing so vibrantly. 

First we have Stamatis Moraitis who passed away at 98 years old (or maybe he was 102, he couldn’t remember). He lived in Ikaria, a small island off of Greece that is known for having the highest population of people 90 years and older. I know I said we’d look at centenarians but this is darn close and we’ll get to them next! And Stamatis may very well have been!

Stamatis tended to his own gardens where he grew the majority of his food, just like his neighbors did. He would have coffee, goat milk or wine for breakfast with a bowl of porridge. He ate fish and occasionally pork. People living in Ikaria wake up late, go to work if they have a job, and make sure to take time out for a real lunch-break enjoyed with coworkers or the neighbors closeby. They nap in the afternoon and stay up late drinking homemade wine, playing cards and otherwise enjoying each other’s company at the local pub. No one in Ikaria has a watch, they live in the moment.

Ikaria is the classic example of how to live a long and healthy life. These people eat fresh local food, have a care-free day and a real breath of fresh ocean air.

But, you don’t have to move to Ikaria or quit your job!
Just look at these other three surprising examples:

  • The longest living person ever documented is Jeanne Calment of France. She was 122 and a half years old when she died in 1997. She wasn’t particularly athletic but took up fencing when she was 70 and rode her bike until she was 100. She lived alone until she was 110 and never showed signs of dementia. She broke all the health rules by smoking since the age of 21 and eating 2.2lbs of chocolate every week! She was however, known to be calm which in her own words was why she was called “Calment”.

  • Anges Fenton of New Jersey is 110 years old. She used to drink 3 Miller High Lifes everyday and follow that up with a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue Label for good measure. Except for a benign tumor that was discovered in her 70s she has had no other health issues! At 110 years old she still has her vision and hearing intact and has no signs of dementia. She is a little slower, a little quieter and sleeps a lot more, but she says she has nothing to complain about. Anges has since passed away after this posting in August 2017 at the age of 112.

  • Finally we have George Rene Francis who lived to be 112 years and 204 days old. He too smoked for much of his life, he ate pork, milk, eggs and lard sandwiches and he loved pizza. He had no serious illnesses or signs of mental decline. He was known to have a love of nature and an exceptionally good-natured spirit.

These people all have widely varying diets, vastly different geographical locations and different exercises if any and they especially have different genetics. So what is the common thread that these people share?

  • Stamatis Moraitis and those on the island of Ikaria live in the moment.

  • Jeanne Calment was known for her calmness.

  • Anges Fenton has nothing to complain about.

  • George Rene Francis had an exceptionally good-natured spirit.

They enjoy each day, they have a positive attitude,

they savor life!

You see, the secret to health isn’t locked up in a yet to be discovered plant in the Amazon jungle. It's possible your thoughts have as much or more of a say in your health than even what you eat!

Dr. Mario Martinez studied the commonalities between centenarians in search of the secret to longevity. In part he uncovered that those who live the longest and are the healthiest, are those who savor life! 

Studies from Harvard School of Public Health and the American Heart Association find that a positive mental attitude reduces the chance of coronary heart disease.

When you feel depressed, your immune system actually weakens making you more vulnerable to catching a cold or illness.

If you are pessimistic about life and have a hard time finding the silver lining, you’re telling your body to react the same.

Ken Budd, the executive editor of AARP magazine says that having a positive mental attitude “is about believing in good times during bad times. It's feeling grateful for what you have instead of lamenting what you lack. It's believing not simply that the positive outweighs the negative in life, but that we can create positive feelings and actions; that we have the power to make ourselves happy and content. And it can also mean accepting limitations without surrendering to them."

As the holidays approach and the New Year comes and goes, remember to: 

Savor the conversations
Savor the people
Savor the meal
Savor the moments
Savor the day!

Your outlook on life may have more of an influence on your long term health, rather than if you keep your New Year’s resolution or not.

And having a positive outlook may also help you keep your New Year's resolution! ;)