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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Healthy Aging

Five Keys for Longevity and Optimal Wellness

by Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS
Research dictates that longevity is heavily reliant on the foods we eat and our outlook on life. In fact, many studies have shown that changing one’s diet, even in their 70s and 80s, can improve health and decrease disease-risk. Inadequate nutrition has been known to contribute to the development of disease. In addition, researchers have identified that chronic inflammation is not only a risk of all diseases but it also speeds up the process of aging. Therefore, eating a diet that decreases inflammation will improve longevity and promote wellness.

There are certain populations around the world that have larger numbers of people who live to be older than one-hundred years of age. These centenarian populations have been labeled the Blue Zones. Research accumulated by the Boston University’s Centenarian Study and by Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones have set forth guidelines on vibrant longevity.

One of the first centenarian lessons is to move naturally as a part of daily living. This does not mean training for a marathon or an Iron Man Challenge. Low intensity movement that is gentle on the knees and hips is ideal. Some examples include walking, yoga, swimming and weight resistance training. This movement could also be a part of daily activities, like gardening or parking further away in a parking lot. The goal is 30 to 60 minutes five times a week.

Another guideline is to stop eating once you are 80 percent full. This encompasses both caloric restriction and allows time for your stomach to communicate to the brain a sense of fullness. Studies have shown that certain lighting, music and colors tend to promote hunger and lingering at a restaurant longer. Also, the size of plates and glasses have a massive impact on how much we consume, and our dinner plates have only grown in the past 40 years. According to research, most people overestimate caloric intake by 20 percent, therefore, aim to stop eating when you are 80 percent full.

Thirdly, eat a balanced diet free from processed foods. Most Blue Zone populations limit their intake of meat. It is common to only consume animal protein for special occasions. A mostly vegetarian lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease chronic inflammation. Also, most centenarian cultures have never been introduced to processed foods like soda or salty snacks. Focus on a balanced diet by including four to six vegetable servings daily, limiting intake of meat, a strong emphasis on beans and nuts. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that those who ate one ounce of nuts daily lived longer, therefore, they are considered a longevity food.

As with the Mediterranean lifestyle, numerous studies have concluded that a glass of wine, in moderation, promotes longevity. Centenarian cultures similarly consume a small serving dry wine daily. Studies show that one or two servings of wine daily will provide health benefits, however over consumption negates all benefits.

Finally, find purpose and live in the moment by reducing stress and engaging in the community. Making loved ones and the community priority provides a sense of purpose. This also encourages a feeling of belonging and happiness. Engaging in these five lessons from centenarian populations can promote longevity and a vibrant lifestyle into our golden years.

Elizabeth McMillan is a board-certified clinical nutritionist at Rose Wellness, in Oakton, VA. For more information, call 571-529-6699 or visit

June 2020




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