Tag Archives | Personal Health

How to Live to 100: Nine Healthy Blue Zone Habits

They’re known as the Blue Zones: Areas around the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians (people who live to be 100+ years old). These Blue Zone areas include parts of Japan, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, and even Southern California.

In 2005, author Dan Buettner launched a research project seeking to learn the longevity secrets of these vibrant cultures which culminated in the 2008 publication of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Although I haven’t read the book, Buettner’s research has been well documented. His work is a fascinating summary of what makes the world’s healthiest people so healthy.

Despite the fact that people live longer today than ever before, let’s face it: Most of us know very few people who make it even close to 100 years old, much less any full-fledged centenarians. Yet Buettner’s work features people like Francesca Castillo of Costa Rica, who, at 100 years old, still cut her own wood and cleared brush from her yard with a machete.

What sets centenarians apart? Is it purely genetics, or are there specific practices we can identify and adopt to help us increase our own life spans? Here are nine habits which, according to Buettner, centenarians throughout the world’s Blue Zones all share:

People who live in Blue Zones walk... a lot.

1. Walk…a lot. This reminds me of the best selling book, Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath, who points out that sitting more than six hours a day is the most underrated public health problem in America. According to Buettner, Blue Zoners walk practically all day, not because they necessarily want to, but because most of them don’t own a car. While that’s not an option for most people, (something that, in my line of work, I’m grateful for!) Buettner recommends finding a place to live that favors activity and connectivity.

2. Don’t retire. Refocus. Blue Zoners all share a deep sense of purpose for their lives. They greet each day with a compelling reason to live. The traditional definition of “retirement” simply doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.

3. Find a de-stressing ritual. Although faced with the same worries we all have, centenarians manage stress through a variety of daily rituals, such as spending time with friends.

4. Follow the 80% Rule. In the age of super-sized portions, centenarians only eat and drink until they feel 80% full.

5. Eat lots of vegetables. In the Blue Zones, the least expensive and most popular dishes are plant-based. Most eat limited amounts of meat and very little refined sugar and carbohydrates.

6. Drink a little wine. Contrary to popular belief, centenarians, by and large, are not teetotalers, although most drink limited amounts and wine is the drink of choice.

7. Cultivate strong friendships. Blue Zoners are consistently found to have a core group of life long friends who provide stability, intimacy, and support.

8. Be part of a community. There is a strong sense of belonging in Blue Zones; a deep-seated cultural expectation of people caring for one another, often centered around religious faith.

9. Stay married. According to Buettner, a positive, committed relationship adds at least six years to life expectancy.

Here’s a question: What would it mean to the quality of your life–and the strength of your personal brand–if you had the physical, mental, and spiritual capacity to live 100+ years? Which of these nine habits resonate the most with you? Which ones challenge you? I’d love to hear your feedback!

This post was adapted from my 2013 blog post.

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Five Reasons to Think Twice Before Getting a Flu Shot

It’s late autumn, the traditional start of the cold and flu season, when you see signs promoting flu shots adorning doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics, pharmacies, even big box retailers. As a result, millions of Americans will dutifully roll up their sleeves and trust that this year’s vaccine will keep them healthy throughout the cold winter months.

via stocksnap.io

But is this ubiquitous vaccine all it’s cracked up to be in terms of protecting you from the flu? Furthermore, is receiving an injection like this year after year the wise thing to do for your long term health? While I don’t claim to be an expert in chemistry, medicine, or biology, I can report that I have never received a flu shot and cannot recall ever contracting the flu. And as a student of health and fitness, I’ve discovered that there are plenty of credible reasons to consider other alternatives to optimizing your health than subjecting yourself to repeated injections of toxic chemicals and virus strains grown on living tissue. Here are five:

1. There is little evidence that flu shots actually work. The flu shot is only able to protect against certain strains of the flu, so if you come into contact with a strain—and there are many–that you are not protected from, then you will still get the flu. According to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) own website, for example, the 2014-15 flu vaccine was only 19% effective, which means that over 80% of people who received a flu vaccine that year were unprotected from the flu. Worse, according to the data reported by the CDC, since they first recommended that children under 5 receive the flu vaccine just before the 2003-2004 flu season, there has been an average increase of 67% of flu-associated deaths in children. Plus, a 2008 study published in the Lancet found that influenza vaccination was NOT associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in older people. Unfortunately, the data suggests that getting the flu vaccine gives people a false sense of protection from contracting the flu.

2. The flu vaccine, as well as all other vaccines, contain mercury, a harmful heavy metal that can seriously compromise your health. Vaccines contain a preservative called Thimerosal, which contains mercury. The amount of mercury in a multi-dose flu shot is 250 times higher than what is legally classified as hazardous waste. Even so-called, “Thimerosal-free” vaccines contain enough trace amounts of mercury to be considered toxic by the EPA. Side-effects of mercury toxicity include depression, memory loss, attention deficit disorder, digestive disorder, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, thyroid and other glandular imbalances, and low immune system.

3. The flu vaccines contain many other toxic or hazardous ingredients, including:

    • Aluminum — a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Triton x-100 – a detergent.
    • Phenol (carbolic acid) – also found in weed killer.
    • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
    • Betapropiolactone – a disinfectant.
    • Formaldehyde – classified as a carcinogen.

4. There is a vast difference between ingesting chemicals through eating or drinking verses injecting them into your bloodstream. Even if it were possible to substantiate claims that trace amounts of mercury (found in some species of fish, for example) and other harmful chemicals are too small to cause any problems, remember that, when we swallow something toxic, our digestive processes act as natural filters that greatly reduce the potency. But when you receive a flu shot, toxins are injected into the muscle and pushed directly into the bloodstream which is far stronger and more harmful. This is something the vaccine manufacturers never bother to point out.

5. There are plenty of safe and effective alternatives to protect us from the flu. With so many potential side effects while only protecting against a small number of strains, the good news is there are some natural remedies you can try that are proven to strengthen your immune system without risk of long term health problems. These include:

    • Getting plenty of vitamin D during the winter months.
    • High dose vitamin C (I take 3,000 – 5,000 mg per day…and I haven’t had a cold in nearly 3 years.)
    • Fish oil, one of nature’s most powerful tools to fight colds and flu.
    • Exercise, which produces natural immune-boosting chemicals throughout your body.
    • Eating plenty of “power-foods” like garlic, berries, and cruciferous vegetables.
    • Eliminate sugar. Few things suppress your immune system like sugary drinks and foods.
    • Reduce stress. The only thing worse than sugar to your immune system is subjecting yourself to frequent anger and stress.
    • Sleep. The more research published on sleep, the more clear the connection between sufficient sleep and a healthy immune system.

via stocksnap.io  via stocksnap.io

I know this is, for some, a controversial topic and I don’t claim to be a public health expert. Neither am I in any way suggesting that no one should ever receive a flu shot. But I am convinced that, for most people, trusting in a vaccine to keep you healthy is a bit of a fallacy. Not only are the real consequences—both short and long term—there are also plenty of good alternatives to injecting toxic chemicals into your bloodstream with, at the very best, a 50/50 chance they will even work.

So before you roll up your sleeve and get that painful needle, think it over. What are your thoughts on the flu vaccine? Have you ever considered that there may be harmful consequences from getting a flu shot? Or do you think it has helped you stave off sickness during the winter months? I’d love to get your comments.

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Creating a Productive Morning Routine in Five Steps

Creating a productive morning routine is critical to harnessing your first waking hour, living healthier and getting more done!

Up until I turned 40, I considered myself a night owl and figured I would be for life. As a young manager in my father’s dealership, I remember sitting at my kitchen table late at night writing radio ads and planning sales meetings, feeling focused and energized late into the evening. And since I needed to be at work early, I became a caffeine addict, downing multiple cups of high octane coffee during my morning commute to fight off the inevitable brain fog.

But as I grew older, I gradually changed into a morning person.

Although the transition wasn’t entirely intentional, over time, I began to realize that my health, productivity, and personal effectiveness rested partly on embracing the morning.

by David Marcu | stocksnap.io

There’s plenty of research to support my morning migration: Early risers not only live longer than night owls, they earn more money, are more productive, and enjoy greater health and happiness.

If you’re interested and intentional about joining the growing ranks of morning people, here are five habits that helped me make the move:

  • Drink a large glass (20 oz+) of water soon after waking up. Twenty years ago, after listening to a Tony Robbins audio series entitled “Living Health” that extolled the benefits of drinking pure water and eating water-rich foods (fruits and most vegetables), this single habit change has had perhaps the most dramatic impact on my energy and focus. The science is simple: After laying in bed for 6 – 8 hours, your body is dehydrated, which is why drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks only makes it worse. In addition to hydration, drinking water upon waking up fires up your metabolism, helps your body flush out toxins, and helps curb your appetite. Try it!
  • Stay away from your TV, computer, and smartphone. As my mentor and fellow blogger Bill Zipp puts it, “Crisis kills creativity and short-term urgencies undermine long-term priorities.” Tuning into headline news, reading emails and checking texts as soon as you wake up puts you into a reactive, task-driven mode that stifles creativity and escalates into what Stephen Covey called “urgency addiction.” Avoiding the urge to plunge into emails and social networking sites first thing in the morning will pay huge dividends in your personal effectiveness down the road.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes in prayer, reflection, contemplative reading or meditation. One of the most common qualities of great leaders throughout history is depth of character, cultivated through deliberate care and feeding of the soul. My personal “quiet time” includes Bible reading, prayer, and journaling. Whatever your spiritual tradition, think of this time as an investment in your inner world that will return more than you could ever expect.
  • Review your personal mission statement, goals, and current priorities. If you don’t currently have a personal mission statement, I urge you to take the time to make this critical investment in your future. Like a pilot deploying his plane’s flaps on takeoff, a mission statement serves to elevate your perspective from runway level to 30,000 feet, where clarity and wisdom supercede crisis and urgency in guiding your decisions.
  • Stand, move, and stretch your body. Although many people have difficulty exercising in the morning, committing to a few simple body movements and stretches can have huge benefits, such as improving posture and stimulating blood flow to muscles, joints, and the brain. Best of all, it takes only a few minutes to get a good, healthy morning stretch.

I know there are many who see the benefits of a morning orientation but can’t see how they could ever change their own habits. The truth is, it’s not easy, but it’s not like becoming an NFL lineman if you weigh 150 lbs. You can do it, but not without changing your story; that is, without considering the very real possibility that being a morning person is not a function of genetic hardwiring but instead of personal preference reinforced by habit. By changing your story, you start telling yourself, “From now on, I love rising early–this is life-changing.” Over time, many people simply adjust their lifestyles to fit their new story. It’s not easy–it takes time. But, believe me, it’s worth it.

If you’re a morning person, what additional advice can you offer those who want to make the change? If you’re not, what would it mean to your life to embrace the morning?

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Four Superfoods of High Energy Addicts

As you launch into the New Year, here are some powerful insights on nutrition to help supercharge your health and vitality in 2016!

I’ve always been a bit obsessive about energy. Despite all you read about time management, the way I see it, performing at your best every day is much more about managing energy than it is managing time. You could have all the time in the world, for example, along with a clear sense of purpose, powerful goals, and deep convictions, but if your energy level isn’t there—if you are frequently tired, lethargic, or sick—chances are, you will squander whatever time advantage you have.

A high energy lifestyle starts with food.

by Abigail Keenan |stocksnap.io

But let’s face it, eating for maximum energy is hard work in a world where no matter where you go, you are assaulted by highly processed, sugar-infested, chemically-treated junk foods that cause your body’s insulin levels to act like a yo-yo.

If you struggle with energy ups and downs that frequently frustrate your ability to get things done, here are four superfoods that, according to leading nutritionists and high performance athletes and trainers, pack the most nutritional bang for the buck. Think of them as the “Rolls Royces” of energy-addicting fruits and vegetables!

(1) Avocado. This popular super-food–is it a fruit or a vegetable?– has more potassium than a banana, but without the high carb content that causes your blood sugar to spike, then drop through the floor (along with your energy). A great source of vital healthy fats, avocados are also high in copper, help reduce cholesterol, fight hypertension, and taste great!
(2) Sea Vegetables. These nutrient-rich superfoods include seaweed, kelp, dulce, wakami, and many others. High in metabolism-boosting iodine, sea vegetables aid digestion, have huge amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium, and can be easily added to salads, soups, stews, rice, etc.
(3) Chia Seeds. Another great source of calcium, chia seeds are also high in boron, which make them perfect for promoting bone health, fighting arthritis, and enhancing energy. Since chia seeds absorb more than 12 times their weight in water, they make you feel full and satisfied long after eating. I have found that the best way to consume them is to add 2 – 3 tablespoons to a smoothie. Although many people soak them before eating, I don’t—and they digest fine.
(4) Cruciferous Vegetables. This vegetable family includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. These nutrient-rich, energy-producing super-veggies stimulate your body’s own detoxification pathway system, neutralize cancer-causing carcinogens, and help lower estrogen levels. My favorite way to prepare: Cut them into small pieces, place on a cookie sheet, add some olive oil and sea salt, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Delicious!

Although I was blessed with a fast metabolism, athletic body type, and a naturally high energy level, I am constantly exploring new ideas and approaches to optimizing my energy. After reading about “superfoods” a year or so ago, I began to incorporate them into my diet daily—with outstanding results. And if you’re looking for an easy way to consume them, check out my smoothie recipe, which include 3 of the 4 superfoods on the list (see below).

Question: What are your favorite high energy foods? How do you prepare them? Do you have any other habits you can share for increasing energy? I’d love to get your comments.

Get my nutrient-rich, energy enhancing smoothie recipe here:

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