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14.08.06 - Seventh Day Adventists Live Longer
Summary: A new study shows that the average Adventist lives 4-10 years longer than the average Californian.
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What if I said you could add up to ten years to your life?
A long healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer. So what’s the formula for success? In recent years researchers have fanned out across the globe to find the secrets to long life. Funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, scientists have focused on several regions where people live significantly longer. In Sardinia, Italy, one team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men reach age 100 at an amazing rate. On the islands of Okinawa, Japan, another team examined a group that is among the longest lived on Earth. And in Loma Linda, California, researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among America’s longevity all-stars. Residents of these three places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life. In sum, they offer three sets of “best practices” to emulate. The rest is up to you.
It’s Friday morning, and Marge Jetton is barreling down the San Bernardino Freeway in her mauve Cadillac Seville. She peers out the windshield from behind dark sunshades, her head barely clearing the steering wheel. Marge, who turned 101 in September, is late for one of several volunteer commitments she has today, and she’s driving fast. Already this morning she’s walked a mile (1.6 kilometers), lifted weights, and eaten her oatmeal. “I don’t know why God gave me the privilege of living so long,” she says, pointing to herself. “But look what he did.”
Today most Adventists follow the prescribed lifestyle—a testimony, perhaps, to the power of mixing health and religion.
From 1976 to 1988 the National Institutes of Health funded a study of 34,000 California Adventists to see whether their health-oriented lifestyle affected their life expectancy and risk of heart disease and cancer. The study found that the Adventists’ habit of consuming beans, soy milk, tomatoes, and other fruits lowered their risk of developing certain cancers. It also suggested that eating whole wheat bread, drinking five glasses of water a day, and, most surprisingly, consuming four servings of nuts a week reduced their risk of heart disease. And it found that not eating red meat had been helpful to avoid both cancer and heart disease.
In the end the study reached a stunning conclusion, says Gary Fraser of Loma Linda University: The average Adventist lived four to ten years longer than the average Californian. That makes the Adventists one of the nation’s most convincing cultures of longevity.
Like many Adventists, Marge spends most of her time with other Adventists. “It’s difficult to have non-Adventist friends,” she says. “Where do you meet them? You don’t do the same things. I don’t go to movies or dances.” As a result, researchers say, Adventists increase their chances for long life by associating with people who reinforce their healthy behaviors.
At noon, back at Linda Valley Villa, where Marge lives in a community of retired Adventists, she treats me to lunch. We sit by ourselves, but a stream of neighbors stop by to say hello. Over tofu casserole and mixed green salad, I ask Marge to share her longevity wisdom.
“I haven’t eaten meat in 50 years, and I never eat between meals,” she says, tapping her perfect teeth. “They’re all mine.” Her volunteer work helps her avoid the life-shortening loneliness suffered by so many seniors—and gives her a sense of purpose, which imbues the lives of other successful centenarians. “I realized a long time ago that I needed to go out to the world,” she says. “The world was not going to come to me.”
I have a last question for Marge. After interviewing more than 50 centenarians on three continents, I’ve found every one likable; there hasn’t been a grump in the bunch. What’s the secret to a century of congeniality?
“Well, I like to talk to people,” she says. “I look at strangers as friends I haven’t met yet.” She pauses to rethink her answer. “Then again, people may look at me and wonder, Why doesn’t that woman keep her mouth shut!”
Read the original news story here:
The Secrets of Long Life
Read more news stories on this topic here:
Seventh-day Adventists and Health
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