By Jill Borth, R.N. Adventist Health, Lodi Memorial

Throughout my 32-year nursing career, I’ve heard many comments from people in various stages of health and illness and noticed a common theme: People who are well, often state when it’s their “time to go” they’ll be ready. Yet most seriously-ill people are willing to do just about anything to buy more time. In the end, most of us wish to live long, healthy, happy lives. How is Lodi doing in fulfilling this wish? One litmus test is the lifestyle and wellness evidence found in the book, The Blue Zones.

“The majority of the US is approaching the idea of a long, healthy life the wrong way,” according to National Geographic writer and explorer, Dan Buettner’s latest book, The Blue Zones. The book focuses on five locations around the world – Greece, Loma Linda, Sardinia, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan -- with either the highest percentage of people living to 100 years or longer, or the locations with the lowest rate of mortality. In the book, researchers debunked the health myth that a person’s genes largely contribute to health, weight and longevity.

“Only 25 percent of how long you live is dictated by your genes,” Buettner said. “The other 75 percent is lifestyle and environment.”  

The Blue Zone team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists found nine lifestyle similarities in the zones that noticeably differ from our local lifestyle tendencies. These “Power 9” lifestyle factors are:

  1. Daily natural physical movement (gardening, house work, yard work, walking);
  2. Having a purpose or reason to wake up in the morning (adding up to 7 years of life);
  3. Stress-shedding routines (Okinawans remember their ancestors daily, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour);
  4. The 80 Percent Rule - stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full. People in Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and don’t eat any more the rest of the day;
  5. Plant-focused diets. Beans, including soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times per month and serving sizes are about the size of a deck of cards;
  6. Wine at 5. Blue Zone populations (except Adventists) drink moderately (one to two glasses per day) with friends and/or with food;
  7. A sense of belonging or community. All but 5 of 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Research shows attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years to your life;
  8. Loved ones come first. Keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby (lowering disease and mortality rates of children in the home, too); committing to a life partner (adding up to 3 years of life); and investing in their children with time and love all contribute to longevity;
  9. Surrounding yourself with the right tribe. The world’s longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness and even loneliness are contagious. The social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

What can you do to add years to your life and start moving Lodi closer to a “Blue Zone?”

How does Lodi compare to the Blue Zones?

Buettner worked for a decade with National Geographic to locate places that not only had high concentrations of individuals over 100 years old, but clusters of people who had grown old without health problems such as heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes. The locations identified in his book are:

  1. The Barbagia region of Sardinia, which has the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians;
  2. Ikaria, Greece, with the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia;
  3. Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, home to the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality, and second highest concentration of male centenarians;
  4. The Seventh Day Adventists, most highly concentrated in the Loma Linda, CA, area, live 10 years longer than their North American counterparts; and
  5. Okinawa, Japan, whose female population over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.

By contrast, here are the sobering facts about the state of health in Lodi:

  • San Joaquin County is the third highest county in the state for diabetes. People with diabetes have a two- to four-times greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Depending on which census tract you live in Lodi, your life expectancy ranges from 57.93 years to 80.68 years.
  • The leading causes of death in the county in 2016 were: 1) heart disease; 2) cancer; 3) stroke; 4) Alzheimer’s; 5) lung disease; 6) accidents; 7) diabetes; and 8) liver disease.

Many chronic diseases could be prevented, delayed or alleviated through simple lifestyle changes. The CDC estimates that eliminating just three risk factors -- poor diet, inactivity and smoking -- would prevent 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative Team will be compiling local resources, and helping to connect employers with tools to work toward improvement.  We hope that you join us for the health of us all! For more information about the Healthy Lodi Initiative, please visit the website: http://www.healthylodi.com or call the Chamber at 209-367-7840.