The Healthiest People in the World

I’ve mentioned before that I was partly raised in Suriname, South America, a third world country north of Brazil.  Because there were so few Americans (U.S. Citizens) in the country, we all knew one another.  I noticed that when any of the newbies came, they were often fat.  Something about living in the country would slim us all down by the time we left.  I suspect it was the diet because most of us were forced to eat only what was available in the country.  It’s easier to follow the rule to buy local when you have no choice!  (Unfortunately, I have learned that there are now American fast food joints there, which is probably not helping everyone to stay slim.) 

I love to hear of new scientific research on healthy people around the world.  It’s wonderful to find out what you can do to emulate the healthiest of the healthy.  Lately I’ve stumbled upon several books about the science of the happiest and healthiest.  All of these books not only are educational, but also give me a feeling of lightness and optimism, because they focus on the positive.  The one thing that all of these researchers agree upon is that exercise is a major component of a healthy and happy life.  

Healthy at 100 by John Robbins, 613.2 ROB.  I loved this book so much that I bought 2 copies, one for my mom & one for my dad.  Robbins compiles all the research that’s been done on centenarians and healthy elders around the world.  He talks about all aspects of their lives, their eating habits, activities, relationships and cultures.  He gives an intimate portrait of these small communities of healthy and happy peoples.  It is encouraging to see what they have in common and what you can do to be more like them.  He does, in my opinion, get a little bit preachy at the end, but it’s worth it for all the solid scientific information you receive. 

Train your Mind, Change your Brain by Sharon Begley, CD SPOKEN BEG.  This audiobook was so fascinating!  The whole book details different scientific experiments that have been done on the brain.  The coolest thing that I learned from this is that our brain is constantly growing and changing.  The research indicates that even in very old age, we are still growing new brain cells.  Not only that, but our very DNA can be changed by our brain patterns.  There are many interesting studies about happiness and some slight changes in patterns that can make all the difference.  One study that I found particularly interesting was a study on rats where certain rats were forced to exercise and other rats were allowed to exercise whenever they wanted.  Not only were the “free” rats happier, but they actually ended up exercising more.  So the trick to exercise is doing something fun!  They explain this in much more detail, as well as countless other interesting experiments that have been done. 

The Fertility Diet by Jorge Chavarro, Walter Willett & Patrick Skerret, 618.1 CHA.  This book is the culmination of many years of research done on roughly 18,000 female nurses.  It is part of the Nurses’ Health Study, which is a long-term research project started in the 1970s.  In this book, the studies were narrowed down to the women who were actively trying to conceive.  They showed the common denominators in diet of all the women with the greatest rates of fertility.  Much of their conclusions are in agreement with John Robbins’ study of healthy centenarians as well.     

Love & Survival by Dean Ornish, 616.123 ORN.  In this book, Ornish talks about the role of love in health and healing, particularly the health of the heart, which brings to mind the common sense handed down from our wiser elders as well.  This book takes a different angle from his works on diet and other aspects of health. 

September Songs, the Good News about Marriage in the Later Years by Maggie Scarf, 306.81.  This is another book on how love can help you age well.  Scarf shares very intimate interviews with several happily married couples in their later years. 

U.S. News & World Report‘s February 2010 edition has some interesting articles on health in aging, including interviews with healthy & happy centenarians.  It’s interesting to note that almost all of these elder people are very active as well.

Here’s to a life of health & happiness! 

Jesse Lee Harmon is the bookkeeper and library assistant at OWL and is currently humming the song All Kinds of Roses by Yusuf (Cat Stevens) on Roadsinger, CD Folk-Rock YUS.

2 thoughts on “The Healthiest People in the World

  1. Great post Jesse! I too think we can learn a lot from the lifestyle and cultures of other countries. Dr. Oz had a great program on once about the “blue zones” around the world where people live healthy, and happily, until a very old age 🙂

    I love that song by Yusuf as well…

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