Secret of longevity: “Hara Hachi Bu” is a 2500 years old famous adage of Confucius (551 – 479 BC), the legendary Chinese philosopher. It literally means “stomach 80%” or “eat food until your stomach is 80% full”. This is a greeting that the people in Okinawa Island in Japan use at the start of a meal to each other. And this is considered to be the secret of 29% population of that island reaching over 100 years of age. (Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical “religion” developed from the teachings of Confucius).
Eat Less and Live Longer: Longevity has been always a fascinating subject. Everyone wants to live as long as possible, may be forever. If possible no one wants to die at all. Secret of long life seems to be consuming fewer calories and living a simple life. They all have lower incidence of diabetes, heart diseases, Alzheimer’s and cancers. No one is overweight.
National Geographic research: In 2005 National Geographic commissioned a study to find where in the world people live the longest and what is their secret of longevity? Their researcher Dan Buettner, author of “Blue Zone, Lessons of Living Longer from the People Who Have Lived the Longest” identified four such geographical areas he named as Blue Zones. They are namely, Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica, and Loma Linda in California. These places have maximum percentage of centurions (persons living more than 100 years) in the population. Top position is claimed by Okinawa Island. They remain active until the end. The common denominators for the longevity were then compared. The results are interesting and many articles are available on websites about this and similar subjects, some excerpts of which are reproduced below.
Most important commonalities: The study found the following:
- Eat fewer calories: In Okinawa Island when people start to eat, they greet each other with “Hara Hachi Bu”. With this reminder they eat less. In 1930 Prof. Clive McCay of Cornell University also deduced from animal experiments that calorie restriction prolongs the life.
- Stay active and use more calories: Our sedentary life style is the cause of many ills. Even sitting on floor, as in olden days, is considered to be better than sitting on chair because you need to use more calories to stand up from floor. Walking is even better. Many thousand years old Chinese medicine believes in acupressure on soles of feet and hands where the body organs are represented. Walking and working with hands continues such acupressure with all its benefits.
- Eat predominantly plant based diet: Most of these people are found to eat leafy veggies grown in their own gardens. They eat little meat, fish tofu and dairy. Because mostly it is plant based, the quantity is large but calories are few. Hence they stay lean.
- Have a purpose to live: Again in Okinawa a word “Ikigai” is often referred to. This means “that which makes one’s life worth living.” For some it may be family for others it may individual spirituality or community service.
- Live a balanced life in all different ways: It may be eating, drinking, exercising or resting. Anything that stands to common sense is good. Sardinia’s local vine containing three times antioxidants may also be an explanation.
- Get involved in your people: In all these blue zones the community is well knit and stay involved with one another. It is almost tribal society.
- Meditation and prayers: Californian Seventh Day Adventist centurions perform communal prayers and walks. Meditation is their way of life.
Bottom line: It is simple and straight forward. Live a clean, simple and involved life. Use common sense. Do all that our ancestors have done to stay healthy. Make the community your family. Do all that helps each other. Feel happy doing what you do. You will surely live longer and that too with good health. It makes sense. Let us all follow this.