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Unveiling the Blue Zone's secrets of longevity through the five pillars.

The Five Pillars Of Longevity

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The Five Pillars Of Longevity

This is Dr. Mark Hyman. He’s a medical doctor, and he’s the board president of clinical affairs of the Institute for Functional Medicine. He’s also the founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center!

What he’d like you to know about is what he calls the “Five Pillars of Longevity”.

Now, here at 10almonds, we often talk about certain things that science finds to be good for almost any health condition, and have made a habit of referencing what we call “The Usual Five Things™” (not really a trademark, by the way—just a figure of speech), which are:

  1. Have a good diet
  2. Get good exercise
  3. Get good sleep
  4. Reduce (or eliminate) alcohol consumption
  5. Don’t smoke

…and when we’re talking about a specific health consideration, we usually provide sources as to why each of them are particularly relevant, and pointers as to the what/how associated with them (ie what diet is good, how to get good sleep, etc).

Dr. Hyman’s “Five Pillars of Longevity” are based on observations from the world’s “Blue Zones”, the popular name for areas with an unusually high concentration of supercentenarians—Sardinia and Okinawa being famous examples, with a particular village in each being especially exemplary.

These Five Pillars of Longevity partially overlap with ours for three out of five, and they are:

  1. Good nutrition
  2. Optimized workouts
  3. Reduce stress
  4. Get quality sleep
  5. Find (and live) your purpose

We won’t argue against those! But what does he have to say, for each of them?

Good nutrition

Dr. Hyman advocates for a diet he calls “pegan”, which he considers to combine the paleo and vegan diets. Here at 10almonds, we generally advocate for the Mediterranean Diet because of the mountains of evidence for it, but his approach may be similar in some ways, since it looks to consume a majority plant diet, with some unprocessed meats/fish, limited dairy, and no grains.

By the science, honestly, we stand by the Mediterranean (which includes whole grains), but if for example your body may have issues of some kind with grains, his approach may be a worthy consideration.

Optimized workouts

For Dr. Hyman, this means getting in three kinds of exercise regularly:

  • Aerobic/cardio, to look after your heart health
  • Resistance training (e.g. weights or bodyweight strength-training) to look after your skeletal and muscular health
  • Yoga or similar suppleness training, to look after your joint health

Can’t argue with that, and it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I’m healthy because I do x” while forgetting y and/or z! Thus, a three-pronged approach definitely has its merits.

Reduce stress

Acute stress (say, a cold shower) is can confer some health benefits, but chronic stress is ruinous to our health and it ages us. So, reducing this is critical. Dr. Hyman advocates for the practice of mindfulness and meditation, as well as journaling.

Get quality sleep

Quality here, not just quantity. As well as the usual “sleep hygiene” advices, he has some more unorthodox methods, such as the use of binaural beats to increase theta-wave activity in the brain (and thus induce more restful sleep), and the practice of turning off Wi-Fi, on the grounds that Wi-Fi signals interfere with our sleep.

We were curious about these recommendations, so we checked out what the science had to say! Here’s what we found:

In short: probably not too much to worry about in those regards. On the other hand, worrying less, unlike those two things, is a well-established way improve sleep!

(Surprised we disagreed with our featured expert on a piece of advice? Please know: you can always rely on us to stand by what the science says; we pride ourselves on being as reliable as possible!)

Find (and live!) your purpose

This one’s an ikigai thing, to borrow a word from Japanese, or finding one’s raison d’être, as we say in English using French, because English is like that. It’s about having purpose.

Dr. Hyman’s advice here is consistent with what many write on the subject, and it’d be an interesting to have more science on, but meanwhile, it definitely seems consistent with commonalities in the Blue Zone longevity hotspots, where people foster community, have a sense of belonging, know what they are doing for others and keep doing it because they want to, and trying to make the world—or even just their little part of it—better for those who will follow.

Being bitter, resentful, and self-absorbed is not, it seems a path to longevity. But a life of purpose, or even just random acts of kindness, may well be.

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