Sunday, July 13, 2008

Some Random Thoughts on Longevity[103]

" Youth is not a certain period of life but a state of mind "......Dr Nik Isahak Wan Abdullah

Friends ,

Apart from the now world famous youthful octagenarians from Okinawa there are other loculated small god forsaken places in the world that can boast even better statistics of older and active people :Vilcabamba people in Ecuador ,Hunga people of the very remote and difficult to reach Hunga valley in Northern Pakistan bordering China and Russia,surrounded by high mountain ranges from all sides ,and lastly the Abkhazians in Central Caucasus in Georgia .

The common denominators these remote people have are : 1 .active lifestyle from childhood to old age by virtue of their meagre existence as farmers living in difficult terrains to work in day to day .

2 .High carbohydrate ,but relatively low calories in relation to their daily active life style .They averaged around 1900 kcalories , 60 % coming from grain ,legumes ,nuts and fruits .Fats mainly from plant source .In comparision , an average Western or even sedentary Asian person take in around 2300 kcalories daily or more despite the very sedentary nature of his lifestyle .Movement and physical activity somehow has been incorporated in their lifestyle as a matter of necessity .The Okinawan's average calorie intake are even lower around 1400kcalories .Also mainly from carbohydrates .

3 .Close interdependence amongst these people is a common trait .Close knit families and close relationships amongst friends in the village is a matter of course .They celebrate and grief communally .

4.Faith or a deep sense of spirituality in these remote communities are still strong and play a dominant role in their daily lives .There are time for meditations and time for introspection on a daily basis .If one were to live with them one can sense on a daily basis there are connectivity between 'the slaves and the Master' ,whatever faiths or religions these simple hardy people subscribe to .This deep spirituality help them in time of stress and grief and provide the necessary 'cushion' ,in time of need .In the more secular and more material world of ours , where it is fashionable to go 'godless' or 'do away with any form of spirituality ' this safety outlet or 'cushion' is no longer there which explain for the relatively high suicide rate and morbidity from illnesses .The state of mind ,despite what we would like to believe , has a great influence on the well being of the body .This is effected through the complex interplay of the hormonal system , immunological system and neural input from the brain ,with the brain playing the dominant role .

I am very sure none of us would want to be in the remote Hunga valley or be in Vilcabamba in Ecuador and lives like a hermit with no electricity ,modern day amenities like hospitals and super markets ,IT connectivity etc etc,and to contend with rough terrains and meagre living on a daily basis .But all of us would like to live healthy youthful lives right up to the 80's or 90's .We want to be like the world famous Jack Lalance who lives healthily right up to the 90's .Never too late to start changing ,at any age !

Jim Fixx ,another famous TV health nut who expounded the way to healthy living through exercise but forget the importance of nutrition , is a case in point .He exercised everyday up to his premature death by the roadside from a massive myocardial infarction ['heart attack'] .A case of too much exercise without proper look at nutrition .On the other side of the scale is the chap who introduced the famous Low carbo High protein High fats diet which for some years took the world by storm .He also died prematurely in his late 40's of an acute MI .To the Okinawan or the Hungas ,if you in the 40's you are still a boy Your opinions are not warranted .There is an Okinawan karate exponent still teaching his art at 95 !

So how do we modern man acheive longevity ? The long and short of it , I have come to the following conclusions :

1 .Smoking is a definite No ,No .I am not worried about lung cancer .If you are a smoker and you have lung cancer ,you just pack you bag and say goodbye to your loved ones in 6 to 7 months .Fullstop .You got the wrong lottery .
Smoking cause generalised premature aging of your arteries to ALL leading to generalised premature aging of all your organs .Your brain ,kidneys ,heart malfunctioned earlier than non smokers and by the time you reach your 50's you behave and move like you are already mid 60's .Smokers get errectile dysfunction much earlier .

2.Stress level
Modern day living is full of stress .How we handle and modulate stress impact on longevity .There is a certain philosophy ,a certain way of thinking that set people apart on the way they handle stress .Part of this can be due to the way we were brought up but it is not something that we cannot influence or unlearned or learn .Part of it ,to my mind has to do with Faith or lack of it .People who has Faith ,any kind of Faith ,handle stress better .All Faiths or religions in the world teaches the concept of 'acceptance' and this to my mind is a great reservoir to absorb stress .People with no Faith or religion but has deep spirituality also have this safety outlet .

3 .Nutrition
The common denominator here that runs through all these remote cultures is " high carbohydrate ,low calorie ,high fibre based diet ,the calories coming from legumes ,grain and nuts with plenty of fruits and vegetables " .As a modern man I definitely get an F here ! If you are leading a sedentary lifestyle ,it means a diet less than 1500kcalories daily .In short small meals all the time ,low in animal fats and low in meat .This way produce lean ,hungry looking men ! All of us fail here .

4 .Activities
Exercise 30 minutes a day 3 times a week is the minimum standard .1 hour daily 7 days a week would certainly be better .Moving your limbs in daily active work from morning till dusk would be excellent .What exercise ? Aerobic like brisk walking is good .Running better .Mix it with some resistance training the best .

There you are ,a simple formulae for Longevity for the modern man .No expensive GH ,Testosterone ,painful dangerous insulin therapy ,over simplistic 'colonic' washouts [ how gross ! and I am ashame some of people from my profession pushing it in downtown KL ] ,ozone therapy [ Oh my god! ] ,megadoses of vitamins [ how many MLC's going to 2nd board in KLSE ? ].
But most people will find it difficult to believe in simple formulae ,they rather pay or sign through their cheques ! Typical Malaysians !

[To be continued :A Muslim's perspective]

No comments: