Having explored other parts of the world in this four-part longevity journey to learn more about the lifestyles of those people living the longest, this final segment profiles Yorba Linda, a southern California town that leads the nation in life expectancy and is the USA contingency of longevity All-Stars.
Yorba Linda is home to the largest percentage of Seventh-day Adventists in the country – some 9,000 live in and around these parts, and it is believed that their faith, which endorses healthy living, is the key contributing factor to their extended longevity.
Adventists follow a faith that expressly discourages smoking, alcohol consumption, or eating foods deemed to be unclean in the Bible, such as pork. In fact, the religion discourages the consumption of meat in general, as well as rich foods, caffeinated drinks, and even “stimulating” condiments and spices. Some of the most conservative Adventists don’t believe in going to the movies or the theater or indulging in any other form of popular culture. And while these behaviors may seem extreme to some, they have clearly contributed to longevity.
Loma Linda University and Medical Center, founded in 1905 and privately owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has played a significant role in research studies that have contributed greatly to the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health’s ability to determine the role certain lifestyle behaviors play in various health issues. Due to the similarities of the majority of Adventists’ lifestyles, they provide an ideal control group.
The Adventists have actually created a longevity culture that has consistently provided data proving they live longer than other populations. While life expectancy In the United States is almost 80 for women and about 76 for men, for the Adventists it’s 89 for women and 87 for men.
While most everyone knows the benefits a diet low in meats and saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables contributes to a lower percentage of heart disease and cancers, the role of water had never been actually proven as a protector of heart attacks until the Adventist study. They found that men who drank 5 to 6 glasses of water a day had a substantial reduction in the risk of a fatal heart attack – 60-70% less – compared to those who drank considerably less water. And no, other liquids do not provide the same benefits … it has to be water. So imagine that, making a sizeable dent in heart attack rates just by increasing the number of glasses of water you drink! This should be a major public health finding.
But perhaps of most intrigue is the role of Sabbath in Adventists’ lives. From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, they stop and focus on faith and family. It is believed by many that this spirit of the Sabbath helps people live longer. It is meant to be a sanctuary in time for rest and rejuvenation – a time to value exercise, get out in nature and in many ways, serves as a pure stress reliever. Most Adventists can’t wait for the Sabbath to come because they have a guilt-free time frame when they don’t have to study or do some other obligation. They can just be with their family and friends, and with God, and just relax.
The chances of us all converting to Seventh-day Adventists is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean we could not all benefit by adopting certain aspects of their lifestyle.
Following are the 10 steps practiced by America’s longevity All-Stars:
For further exploration of the longest-lived people in the world, check out the Blue Zones books and/or website.