The doctor himself has competed in several Ironman triathlons, so it should come as no surprise that exercise is key to his approach to staying young. But he has also written two books, one offering fish oil as a antidote to chronic inflammation in the body, and another The Longevity Factor, which shows how red wine, dark chocolate, and green tea are good for us.
He offers lots of other advice centered around exercise and nutrition, and if you want to read the whole article you can find it at Anti-Aging Tips.
But what struck me is that Dr. Maroon seems to want us to micromanage our nutrition and exercise so much that we hardly have time to do anything else. It's definitely for the Type A personality.
Yet Dr. Maroon also cites Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, a book published in 2012 which examines the lifestyles of people who live a long time. And Buettner's studies show that the people who live the longest don't micromanage anything. They seem to be Type B personalities who enjoy life -- but do it in a healthy way that emphasizes good food, a positive attitude and a vibrant social life.
I did a blog post on Blue Zones when the New York Times published an article on the book. and so now, since it's becoming a bit of a touchstone in this area of study, I thought I'd reprise some of the information here.
Dan Buettner is a longevity expert who travels the world looking for regions where people live long and happy lives -- including Okinawa where the world's longest-lived women are found, and a place in Sardinia with the highest concentration of male centenarians on Earth. Buettner's regions are termed "blue zones" simply because he circled the areas on his map in blue ink.
Buettner found his latest blue zone in Ikaria, Greece, an island in the Aegean Sea, where men are four times more likely than American men to reach the age of 90. People in Ikaria also live noticeably longer than their neighbors in Samos, a more developed island just ten miles away.
The people on Ikaria eat a diet low in the saturated fats that come from meats and diary, and they consume almost no refined sugar. Instead, they drink goat's milk and consume lots of olive oil and wild or unprocessed greens. By eating greens from their gardens and the fields, they ingest fewer pesticides and more nutrients. They drink wine almost every day, but in moderation, and they also drink two or three cups of coffee a day (coffee is associated with lower rates of diabetes, cancer and Parkinson's). And by the way, they don't obsess over the pros and cons of either wine or coffee. They drink, and enjoy, both in moderation.
The Ikarians also get plenty of sleep, and never hesitate to take a midday nap. Also, about three-quarters of the senior citizens have sex on a regular basis.
These islanders prize their social lives. They rarely dine alone, for example, but always make a meal into a social occasion with family and friends. Buettner surmises that being engaged in the community not only gives people a sense of connection and security, but the lack of privacy may act as a check against self-destructive behavior, including crime. Ikaria has a low crime rate not because of good policing, but because everyone knows everyone else, and it's hard to get away with anything.
The Ikarians wake up late, and take a relaxed approach to work. But they're not lazy. Many hold more than one job, and the concept of "retirement" with a gold watch and a 401K plan is completely foreign to them. They take pride in being self-sufficient. No one is rich, but everyone has enough food and a roof over their heads. They also get a fair amount of exercise -- not by sweating at the gym or training for marathons, but by walking almost everywhere they go, and never worrying too much if they're late.
One lesson Buettner draws from his blue zones is that the long-lived lifestyle works best as a community-based project. It's easy to stay on a good diet if everyone in the neighborhood has a kitchen garden; it's hard if there are fast-food joints and racks of chips and candy everywhere you go.
The lesson I draw is this: Some people will make the Maroon approach work for them. But for most of us, a more relaxed approach may work better.
So invite your friends and family over for dinner. Serve fish and vegetables and wine; no dessert, just coffee or tea. Then your guests should leave early so you can perhaps engage in some light exercise known to occur in the bedroom. And then get a good night's sleep.