For the month of July I will be dedicating my blog reading and discussing the book, "The Blue Zones: Lessons For Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest" by Dan Buettner. We are now reading Chapter 3: The Blue Zone in Okinawa Sunshine, Spirituality, and Sweet Potatoes. I am about one third of the way through the book, thoroughly enjoying it as I read. The book is written in a conversational style while being filled with insights about how to create a healthy and long life. I am finding it to be an easy read and I want to share what I have learned with you, my friends and family. Learning about the centenarians' stories help me to think about how to practically apply their principles in my own life. This chapter focuses on talking with the Okinawa women over the age of 100. I loved the stories about Kamada and Gozei. Kamada, who is a 102-year-old woman who considers herself the priestess and spiritual advisor for the community. Gozei who was also 102, was the warrior and protector of her family as well.
The older women in this chapter have grown up in poor circumstance and have a wonderful sense of resiliency. They all had jobs or circumstances that required them to be outside exposed to sun on a daily basis for most of their lives. This sun exposure helped them to create good levels of vitamin D during their lives. Vitamin D levels have been the subject of much medical studies in the last 10 years. I thought it was interesting that these researchers observed the tanned skin of the Okinawan women and understood this might be one of the keys to their longevity. Vitamin D has important health benefits related many to age related illnesses like cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and bone health. I thought it was also important that the researchers explained the difference between the sun being helpful and sun being harmful.
I stress eating a plant-based diet with my patients and older Okinawans, due to the hardships and poverty, had the habit of eating mostly vegetables. As a result they have always had a great diet. Many of the centenarians also grew gardens during their life.