Wholly Living

Keys to Living Healthy Longer

Kennedy shares five of the actions he witnessed around the world that promote healthy living and longevity.
Daniel Kennedy holding a camera.

Daniel Kennedy is the producer of Healthy Long Life, a documentary series that tackles the problem that people are living longer but they are not healthier. The bonus eighth episode with expert comments talks on how to rise up from COVID-19. It took four years to produce “Healthy Long Life” and filmed in 13 countries. In this interview, Kennedy shares five of the actions he witnessed around the world that promote healthy living and longevity. 

The belief that if you have good genes, you will live long and healthy, and if you have bad genes, you will undoubtedly get cancer, diabetes or heart disease is erroneous. Genes do influence a person’s health, but lifestyle behaviors have the power to override bad genes. Dr. Michael Greger says it in a straightforward way in the “Healthy Long Life” docuseries: “Genetics may load the gun, but it’s really the environment, diet and lifestyle that pulls the trigger.” This is true for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, the United States’ top killers. 

Nutrition is powerful when it comes to health. Whether a person has inherited a gene mutation or a gene has been mutated due to lifestyle and environmental factors, nutrition can regulate the gene expression. Dr. Dean Ornish references studies showing that a healthy lifestyle downregulates genes that cause inflammation and oncogenes that promote prostate, breast and colon cancer.

1.  Be Proactive About Health

Medicine has fought back disease and extended the life expectancy to nearly 80 years, but we are only healthy for 70 years. Among the multiple factors that contribute to the 10 unhealthy years that most Americans will experience is that medicine fights disease but doesn’t promote health. If a person has pneumonia, antibiotics are needed to kill the bacteria causing the lung infection. If successful, the person will recover from pneumonia, but they will not have healthier, stronger lungs due to the medicine. To build healthy lungs, a person must actively exercise and eat foods that boost their immune system. The healthcare system in the United States is a reactive one. A person goes to a doctor when they get sick, and they take the prescribed medication to control and hopefully defeat the illness. To increase the number of healthy years a person lives, one must be proactive about health. Adopting healthy living habits and pursuing health before losing it is the path to a healthy long life. 

2. Reduce Excess

Not all experts agreed on the specific diet that promotes health the most. What all experts did concur with is that caloric restriction adds years to life. Dr. Sebastian Gronke of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) shares that “Caloric reduction in food uptake by 25% to 50% extends life span significantly.” He said that specifically reducing the intake of protein extends life span and improves health, according to recent studies at MPI. 

In addition to cutting out excess food, we found that people who live longer and healthier have a more relaxed lifestyle. It is vital to reduce excess stress and also to reduce excess emotional baggage. One of the best ways to reduce excessive stress is through forgiveness. One study concluded that “Greater forgiveness is associated with less stress and, in turn, better mental health.”

3. Make Connections

We filmed a 96-year-old man in Sardinia named Adolfo Melis. Adolfo was still working full time in his family’s cafe and their farm, where he and his family grew all of their produce. He shared that he started each day with a prayer that he and his family would have a good day. We visited numerous families in Sardinia, and we could see that their spiritual and social connections were hallmarks of Sardinian culture. We have found studies that show that a spiritual connection improves emotional and physical health. Spirituality tends to promote harmony, inner peace and social connection. People involved in spiritual practices also tend to have better health behaviors such as abstinence from tobacco and drug use, moderate to no alcohol consumption and positive physical behaviors, including rest and relaxation. 

Woman smiling in kitchen holding food.

4. Eat Healing Foods

Nutrition can induce or reduce the chronic inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other non-communicable diseases. Clinical studies have identified specific foods that inhibit NF Kappa β. NF Kappa β upregulates pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-1β and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-β. Studies have shown that people who live healthier and longer have diets filled with fresh, unprocessed foods, an active lifestyle and lower exposure to pollutants. People in Europe and Israel that live healthy into their 90s or more tend to eat a diet low in processed foods centered around a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices and olive oil. Many of the foods in the Mediterranean diet are rich sources of polyphenols, including cloves, berries, beans, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. A whole food plant-based diet is loaded with healing foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect and therefore can reduce the risk of chronic degenerative disease.

5. Be Active

We were particularly impressed by the active lifestyle of the Sardinians. It wasn’t a population that had gym memberships. Most Sardinians live in the mountain areas and have family farms and flocks of sheep and goats. Though they eat meat and cheese, it is in minimal quantities, and it is family fresh farm to table. They work constantly, tending to their gardens and animals, giving them plenty of exercise, fresh air and healthy sun exposure. A sedentary lifestyle, typical in the United States, is associated with increased risk for hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and many other diseases.  It’s time to get out for daily walks, bicycle rides and any activity that can get you out of the office chair or off of the couch. 

Find more information and resources at www.HealthyLongLife.com, including a direct link to the docuseries and free recipe app, along with an offer for free Vitamin D3 and Zinc.

Listen to the Fight for Good podcast #83 to hear Daniel Kennedy about what led him to produce “Healthy Long Life” and the practical tips he learned for promoting good health.

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