Recently I gave a talk on this at a personal development EXPO (full talk on my YouTube channel) and below.
This talk was about the fact that most people don’t understand that when it comes to what’s a better indicator of your longevity and healthspan*, diet, exercise only play a part. There is a better indicator.
*Note: Healthspan not lifespan. Yes, you live longer, but in healthspan, we focus on living longer but in good health right up until practically the end. Not living the last 10 – 30 years in ill health.
That is the secret. And the secret is…. (drum roll please!)
Connections & Community
Having strong social ties, and good relationships has been shown in several studies to be a better indicator of a person’s health in later life, than anything else. Including income, status, exercise, diet and so on.
In the longest study on longevity out there, from Harvard University, called the Harvard Grant Study, started in 1938, they reached 3 main conclusions. The study followed 724 men (and later women added) from 2 social classes (Harvard type educated sophomores) and a group from a lower working class area in Boston. The study still continues (with about 60 of the men still alive and participating). (TED Talk on study here: https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness )
3 Main Lessons
-  Social relationships are really good for us. People with strong social relationships tend to live longer, and are happier and healthier than those who don’t have those connections. Conversely, those that live life in isolation, tend to be less happy, their brain function declines earlier, health declines earlier and they live shorter lives.
-  The quality of the relationships matter. Those who were in a good/great relationship at aged 50, were the healthiest at aged 80. Regardless of other physical markers like cholesterol, inactivity, heart disease, weight.
-  Relationships protect the brain. Being in strong social relationships also protects the brain against typical age related cognitive decline.
Further to this study, in John Robbins’ book, Healthy at 100 – which I’ve reviewed before and recommended (here: http://harikalymnios.com/healthy-at-100-years-old) , he looks at 4 long living populations across the world.
Vilcabamba (in Venezuela), Hunza (Pakistan), Abkasia (Georgia/Russia), Okinawa (Japan).
Along with the fact that they ate very little (1% – 5%) animal protein, ate no processed food and they exercised (rather moved) throughout the day, a big observation was how strong the social ties were. People as they aged got more important and revered. Not like we do in the West!
A third example of this strong connection is of the town called Roseto in Pennsylvania, USA. Immigrants from Roseto in Italy came and settled in Pennsylvania at the turn of last century. What was unusual was that when researchers were looking into the town (because of a chance conversation between doctors from both Roseto and the University of Oklahoma), they found very little cases of heart disease. From 1954 to 1961, Roseto had nearly no heart attacks for the otherwise high-risk group of men 55 to 64, and men over 65 enjoyed a death rate of 1% while the national average was 2%. So half the national rate.
And it wasn’t their lifestyle that was a factor when it came to smoking, drinking or eating! Nor their genetics as other native Roseto (Italy) immigrants who settled elsewhere in the USA were more in line with national averages. The only thing that was concluded was the strong social ties evident. Many generations of family living together, people knowing each other very well. Support in the community.
Unfortunately, once the town grew some more, and expanded and the sense of community disappeared, so did their remarkable bucking of the trend when it came to heart disease, and the town of Roseto fell in line with the rest of the USA.
Here’s a link to a study about the “Roseto Effect” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1695733/pdf/amjph00545-0027.pdf
So that’s the big secret. Find a community of like-minded and supportive people. Cultivate strong and deep relationships. Get involved in helping your community. Be part of a family (whether blood or not).
It’s not the first thing people think of when it comes to health and longevity (healthspan), but it’s perhaps the most important from all I’ve researched. Of course, the other things are important. That’s why it’s all part of my Leadership B.E.A.T. Model (more info here: http://harikalymnios.com/the-most-important-blog-post-you-will-ever-read-the-four-keys-to-superhuman-living).
What do you think about this? Comment your thoughts below please.
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