Life expectancy & Blue Zones
Asian countries are in lead in terms of life expectancy: Japan, Singapore (where 75% of the population is Chinese), Hong Kong… even the biggest and most polluted cities in China, like Beijing or Shanghai, perform better than Berlin, New York or San Francisco with their 81 years of life expectancy on average.
So, why are many Asian countries ranked in the top ?
In Chinese history there were three major religions, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Each of them promoted formation and development of Traditional Chinese Medicine and health cultivation. Each of them conveyed the philosophy to value life in order to live longer based on:
- Living in harmony with nature & seasons & society (living ecologically; exercising without getting yourself exhausted, by choosing different set of exercise in a different age – at the age of 20 - jogging, basketball, martial arts, at the age of 30 – mountain climbing, badminton, skiing, at the age of 40 – cycling, step climbing, at the age of 50 – swimming, golf, at the age of 60- tai ji, social dance, walking; using different foods & cooking style in winter or summer; taking good care of elders)
- Cultivating inner peace, by integrating physical health, spirit and morality (personal integrity, staying optimistic, helpful, kind and generous, willing to bear responsibilities)
- Cultivating health through moderate diet (not overeating, choosing the best way to cook and prepare food, making sure of the freshness and hygiene of the food, using dietary therapies instead of medication therapy to avoid the side effect of pills)
- Developing diversified interests to keep the brain and body active till the senility & stay social (e.g. exercising qi gong in the park with friends)
- Preventing diseases (keeping a happy mood, having proper diet & regular lifestyle by going to sleep and waking up at the same time, alternating work and rest, clearing meridians and collaterals through acupuncture and Chinese massage Tui Na, supplementing vitamins, resting before becoming tired to prevent exhaustion, drinking before getting thirsty to prevent dehydratation, drinking warm water even during summertime to not consume too much of internal energy Qi)
Below, 9 ways to live 100 years according to a famous research conducted by Dan Buettner and National Geographic. They found out what’s the key to longevity in 4 famous Blue Zones Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece);
- Be active and move naturally, every day. Don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Walk, grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.
- Find your purpose in life. Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy
- Rest and relax. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Take a few moments each day to remember your ancestors, pray, take a nap, do happy hour!
- Don’t over-eat. Confucius said to stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. Eat the smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then don’t eat any more the rest of the day.
- Based your diet on plants. Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month.
- Enjoy wine in moderation. If you don’t drink it’s great, if you drink, do that moderately with friends and/or with food.
- Practice your faith. It’s important to belong to some faith-based community. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.
- Put your loved ones first. Keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too. By committing to a life partner you save up to 3 years of life expectancy and investing in your children with time and love, you will be more likely taken care of once you grow older.
- Belong to the right tribe. Choose to be in a social circle that supports healthy behaviors, because according to studies from Framingham Studies, smoking, obesity, happiness and loneliness are contagious. Shape your health by staying in a circle of healthy people!
This list is reproduced from the http://www.bluezones.com/2014/04/power-9/
Importance of Qi
The purpose of health cultivation is not to regain youth, but to achieve longevity and prevent illness to affect the natural span of life. Ancient people believed that a long life span is 120 years, an average one is 100 years, and a short one is 80 years. From a biological point of view, we are capable of living 120 years. So, why is it that we seldom hear of people who reach this age?
If you read the 9 ways to live 100 years from above, you’ve already noticed how many they have in common with the Traditional Chinese Medicine wisdom knowledge. The link between all of these activities is golden measure called moderation, balance of yin and yang. We need a balanced, healthy lifestyle to keep our internal force, our vital energy called Qi intact as long as we can. If we get rid of our vitality, by not sleeping properly, over-eating, over-working, over-thinking our immune system simply collapses and we get sick. Disease can speed up aging process and the aging can reversely evoke diseases. Disease is one of the factors that shorten our life, even if it’s simple cold or the flu,because they still erode the body’s resources. Thus maintain healthful living habits to have strong immune system, helps to increase lifespan.
So…what exactly is QI about?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi is an invisible, dynamic, fluid force weaving through the body. It stimulates the body’s functions, powers the mind, and enhances the ability to reason, dream and feel emotions. It’s the force that propels the blood through the arteries and veins, the air that enters our lungs, and the energy we use to inhale and exhale.
- Prenatal Qi (equates to the Western concept of DNA). Prenatal Qi is stored in the kidney and it’s finite, meaning that you cannot fill during your life. Only by keeping your body healthy, you keep your vital forces in constant balance. This Qi it’s the key to longevity.
- Postnatal Qi is being created from food and from the air. The higher quality of the postnatal Qi (infinite) I absorb from food and air, the less I need to use my prenatal Qi (finite).
- Kidney essence (jing) the third type of Qi is created when pre and postal Qi combine in the body. This Qi is important for growth, development, maturation and pregnancy.
Qi determine how I feel about myself, provide me with vitality, clarity of thought, emotional stability and spirituality.
- Food Qi is the nutritional essence extracted from food I eat which determines the quality of my tissues. That’s why the nutritional therapy is very important in TCM treatment.
- Nutritive Qi nourishes me but it flows more in the interior of the body. Nutritive Qi is stimulated by acupuncturists needles when inserted into an acupuncture point.
- Defensive Qi protects my body from harmful factors in my environment, flows deeper inside my body, helps to nourish, moisten, warm the skin and my muscles, as well as maintains body temperature.
There are many other more Qi types like catalyzing, transporting, stabilizing, warming, but lets wrap it up by saying that Qi is an life essence which imbalance creates pain. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is trying to find out the fundamental cause of imbalance and restore harmony to Yin Yang, Qi, blood and give the body the ability to heal itself.
“Health cultivation means not doing harm to your body.” said once Ge Hong, an expert on health cultivation in ancient China. It refers to daily practice. I understand that above mentioned 9 ways to live 100 years seem pretty simple to you, but you need to understand that simplicity is the key only if you’re persistent in what you’re doing. Use simpler methods of health cultivation, because the methods easily implemented in daily life can be used for a long time, and only long-time practice can fulfill the goal of improving health. Listen to your body’s physiological signs, natural and social patterns and most of all try not to harm it, by maintaining the constant balance of Qi in your body and letting your body to heal itself (food therapy) before you reach out for medication.
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