Loma Linda in Mexico, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica. All these places have something in common, namely the highest number of people over 90. Is it all thanks to particular lucky genes? Not exactly. What emerged from field studies is that lifestyle and diet have their say when it comes to longevity. And we are not talking about complex habits to integrate, but about small tricks that do not upset everyday life. So let's try to make our own some longevity secrets.
The Ikaria study
There is a large study, called Ikaria, from the name of the Greek island on which it took place from June to October 2009, which studied more than 300 people who had reached 100 years of age, in order to understand the secret of their longevity. Well, what emerged is a high adherence to the Mediterranean diet, with a high intake of fruit and vegetables, often more than recommended by the guidelines, of extra virgin olive oil, legumes and whole carbohydrates, but also an active lifestyle ( Panagiotakos et al, Cardiol Res Pract, 2011). This last aspect has been associated with a low risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. In particular, it was observed that regular exercise is able to counteract left ventricular hypertrophy, even in the elderly. This condition could lead to heart failure and arrhythmias. Indeed, an increase in physical activity, always performed without exaggeration and in a moderate manner, has shown antiarrhythmic protection.
As for nutrition, following the Mediterranean diet has been shown to preserve the elasticity of the aorta and to prevent cardiovascular diseases (Stefanadis et al, Hellenic J Cardiol, 2011).
14 days to rejuvenate the brain
Some studies have gone further trying to develop a program over a limited period of time to quickly achieve improvements in the brain and health of the whole organism, a real cure for longevity and youth. The researchers assumed that mice made to live in an environment rich in stimuli had a greater number of neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is first affected by cognitive impairment with advancing age. Not only that, people who have always kept their minds active also have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. The scientists asked the volunteers to follow a 14-day rejuvenation program. During these 14 days, the volunteers were asked to dedicate some time each day to moderate physical activity, in particular walking at a brisk pace.
Then, the study participants had to perform small relaxation exercises every day. During the 14 days of the tests, the volunteers were also asked to carry out puzzles to train the brain and exercises to improve attention and memory. These exercises increased the difficulty as the days went by. For example, the first day was required to memorize the clothes of a family member, then gradually the things to keep in mind increased, including accessories or hairstyle. Diet was also part of the program. In particular, during these two weeks the volunteers had to try to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, as well as whole carbohydrates and sources of omega 3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish. At the end of the study, the volunteers who had strictly followed the program showed a significant improvement in cognitive function, memory and language (Small et al, Am J Geriatr Psychiatry, 2006).
Anti-aging foods that should be served
Some foods are more anti-aging than others and, if included in your diet on a regular basis, can help extend life expectancy and support the health of body and mind (Si et al, J Nutr Biochem, 2015). Examples of these foods are dark grapes, cocoa and berries, which are rich in resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant. Other youth foods are also apples, pears and green tea, due to the content of epicatechins, onions, cherries and broccoli, due to the contribution of quercetin, and turmeric.
Smoking and alcohol
Finally, based on all the studies carried out on centenarians, if you want to reach a venerable age in good health, it is important to completely avoid smoking and at least limit the consumption of alcohol. Indeed, it has been observed that, of all the lifestyle factors that can predict life expectancy, not smoking is certainly the one that has shown the greatest benefits in terms of longevity (Chudasama et al, PLoS Med, 2020).