The Longevity Plan by Dr. John Day chronicles an American doctor’s journey to a bucolic Chinese village that has one of the highest rates of centenarians in the world (yes, Chinese. Everyone keeps correcting me to say, don’t you mean Okinawa? Nope. China! people). Not only are there plenty of centenarians, but the centenarians are in great health.
The tips described in the book aren’t really earth shattering, but it’s good to be reminded of them and sometimes, a certain way of describing the problem can finally spur action.
1. Eat good food
Obviously don’t eat processed foods. Try to eat fresh. There’s a recipe for something called Longevity soup, which seems kinda kitschy, but since I’m Chinese, I’ve probably drank it multiple times in my life. I liked this quote to frame the right food mindset:
Virtune, I’ve since come to believe, isn’t just what we eat. It’s how we eat. It’s who we eat it with. It’s our relationship with where our food comes from. It’s the decisions we make about how to prepare it. It’s our determination to honor the energy it gives us in positive ways.
2. Master your mindset.
This is greatly simplified but the basic tenets are: Have a positive mindset towards aging and the elderly. Choose happiness. Use breathing and smiling as a preventative measure for anger. Try to forgive.
3. Build your place in a positive community.
Foster a positive community with mutual goals and values. Don’t spread hurtful gossip. Try to share your struggles with others so they can help.
4. Be in motion
We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. But for some reason, the explanations in this chapter inspired me to try to incorporate more motion and just a little bit of vigorous exercise.
5. Find your rhythm
Keep as consistent a schedule as possible.
6. Make the most of your environment
Try to create the healthiest environment possible. Clear clutter. Give to those with less. Test your water to make sure it’s clean. Purify your air. Visit the beach or some place with clean air every now and then.
7. Proceed with purpose
Even in the face of tragedy, the villagers were able to find new purpose to their lives.
The author tells the story of a man who is offered an implantable cardiac defibrillator after 2 heart attacks. It would be painful, but he would live. He didn’t see the point and just assumed that if it was his time to die, then he would just die. After the doctor told him to think about it:
I went home and I called my son at college. . . He knew I’d had a heart attack, but I din’t tell him about the ICD. I just talked to him about what was going on in his life. We talked about his classes and the girl he’d been dating since high school. I had been feeling really bad about the idea of slowing down at the firm, but when we were talking something felt like it was changing inside of me. And when he asked me for some advice on whether he should ask his girlfriend to marry him, I realized that I wasn’t ready to be done being a father to my boy.
All in all, a really interesting and quick read that helps to really refocus on taking better care of ourselves. Maybe we won’t live to be 100, but if we follow these steps, we could live to be a healthy 40, 50, 60, 70 or beyond.