The Age-defying Lifestyle

Sunday, October 1, 2006
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The people of Okinawa, Japan enjoy one of the world’s longest life and health expectancy with very low rates of mortality from the many chronic diseases that come with aging seen in the United States. Many of them live healthy, active and independent lives well into their 90s and beyond, a phenomenon that has created a great interest in the scientific world. It led to a 25 year study of Okinawa Centenarians that started in 1976 to investigate what makes the people of Okinawa so healthy. This study plus others that have been conducted do show that it is possible to slow down the aging process. Here are some lifestyle changes that you can begin to make today to enjoy a long, healthy and active life.  


Eight Steps To a Younger You


1. Eat a regular and well balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables

Make healthy food choices from all food groups and make it your goal to eat at least one fruit and one vegetable with every meal. Cut out processed foods as a way to limit preservatives from your diet and instead choose fresh and unrefined whole foods. Limit foods high in fat, sodium, sugars and caffeine and include more plant based sources of food in your diet for example beans instead of meats as a protein source. The study of the Okinawa Centenarians revealed that they eat 7 vegetables, 4 fruits, 2 serving of soy, fish, plenty of unrefined whole grains and plain water everyday.


2. Engage in regular physical activity

There are many benefits of including regular physical activity into your daily schedule.
As we grow older, lean muscle tissue decreases and body fat tends to increase. The higher your body fat percent the higher your risk of disease and mortality. It is recommended that you engage in 60-90 minute moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week above your usual activity at work or home. The people in Okinawa do martial arts, gardening, walking and traditional dance regularly to keep physically active.


3. Maintain a healthy body weight

Establish what your healthy body weight is and strive to achieve and maintain it. If you have not had a full medical exam done recently, schedule one with your doctor and ask them to check your full lipid profile (triglycerides and cholesterol levels), fasting glucose level, and to also perform kidney, liver and thyroid function tests too. Make sure you understand what the numbers mean and strive to keep them within the healthy range.


4. Get adequate and regular sleep

Getting adequate rest enables your body to regenerate giving you good health and the ability to function normally. According to the National Institute of Health, adults require about 8 hours of sleep while children and adolescents need about 9 hours. Researchers are finding that too little sleep may accelerate aging. Here is an idea, spend 8 hours on sleep, 8 hours on work and 8 hours on leisure everyday!


5. Develop practical stress coping skills

Stress can be a major aging factor. Stress is brought on by very many different things. As Africans living in this country, learning to cope with the new system, culture, weather, people and social dynamics can be extremely stressful. Diseases manifest themselves when we are most stressed because of lowered immune function. Each person has to find a healthy way to handle stress such as getting involved in a sport, joining community activities, dancing, laughter or talking to someone. Do not hold it in!


6. Keep your mind active

Engage in activities that stimulate your mind such as reading books, crossword puzzles, going to school and less TV watching and idle time.


7. Spirituality

A deep sense of spirituality and close family and social ties seems to slow aging. It gives one a sense of purpose and reduces susceptibility to depression. The Okinawa centenarians spend time in prayer and meditation everyday.


8. Do not smoke, use street drugs nor drink alcohol

If you choose to drink alcohol then only in moderation which means up to one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men and not everyday.


When you make these lifestyle choices, you will begin to feel healthier and more active and people will notice and for sure, you will greatly appreciate compliments of how young you look as you advance in years!

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About Murugi Mutiga

Murugi holds a Masters of Public Health in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota. She is a Registered Dietitian and a Licensed Nutritionist in the State of Minnesota. She is a nutrition instructor at Century and Inver Hills Community Colleges and teaches nutrition classes in the community.

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