I’m often asked for medical advice by friends, family members, even new acquaintances. It comes with the territory: What about this diet? What should I do about this symptom? What about this medication?
People are usually disappointed when I don’t share their enthusiasm about the latest health fads. Members of my family, in particular, are often underwhelmed by my medical advice.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do a poor job of conveying why I’m skeptical about the newest medical technology, reports of the latest health news and fashions, and even people’s symptoms. Most symptoms, after all, aren’t explainable, at least to the level of detail we all want.
“What’s causing my symptoms?” Is it a virus? Bacteria? Arterial blockage? In spite of all the science and technology in medicine, what we do is more about taking educated guesses (“playing the probabilities”) than providing precise diagnostic information.
But prevention is different. We know a lot about it, based on huge bodies of epidemiological research. Most of prevention is fairly straightforward. You’ve heard the advice again and again — so much so that it’s easy to tune out. There really aren’t shortcuts:
- Get enough sleep.
- Move your body — throughout the day.
- Eat well — a healthy assortment of foods. Mostly plants, and not too much. [An idea popularized by author Michael Pollan.]
- Interact socially. Isolation is not good for the body, soul, or mind.
- Take some time to reflect.
Recently I’ve come across a couple of ‘content items’ that do a much better job of conveying these messages. One is a set of books and ideas around the world’s so called “Blue Zones.” If you haven’t heard about them, Blue Zones are the places in the world where people both live the healthiest and longest — people in these communities often live well beyond 100 years.
- Okinawa, Japan
- Ikaria, Greece
- Sardinia, Italy
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Loma Linda, California
In all of these places, people have preventive medicine embedded in their lives, without even having to think about it. Their daily activities involve walking most places, eating healthy diets rich in local plants, with a lot of intergenerational social interaction. Interestingly, folks in these communities do drink alcohol — but limit it to 1-2 drinks/day maximum. And they do eat meat — but not very often and in small portions. One thing that won’t surprise you: Blue Zoners do not eat refined sugars (all the convenience and packaged foods that we’re trained to eat because they’re cheap and widely available).
Summarizing these themes visually in under two minutes is another gem from the idea lab of Dr. Mike Evans from Toronto. You’ve seen some of his other videos here. I love them. Just watch the one below, and follow his advice. That’s what I’m trying to do in my own life.
From the Evans Health Lab:
What are your thoughts on Blue Zones and Dr. Mike’s advice?