Although we hear about people living longer these days, apparently the U.S. is falling behind other developed countries in some key life expectancy statistics. From a University of Washington report last week, “Despite the fact that the US spends more per capita than any other nation on health, eight out of every ten counties are not keeping pace in terms of health outcomes. That’s a staggering statistic.” From their website:
The researchers suggest that the relatively low life expectancies in the US cannot be explained by the size of the nation, racial diversity, or economics. Instead, the authors point to high rates of obesity, tobacco use, and other preventable risk factors for an early death as the leading drivers of the gap between the US and other nations.
We hear a lot about people living longer, but we also hear a lot about people dying early from heart disease, cancer and diabetes. We all know that we’re going to die someday and most of us would probably prefer to pass quietly in our sleep — instead of in a hospital or nursing homes with tubes keeping us alive. To me, it’s more a matter of “health span” over “life span” — and living a purposeful and satisfying life instead of just living a lot of years.
When I first began studying about diet and health in 2002, one of the very first books that got my attention was The Canyon Ranch Guide to Living Younger Longer. And I still remember some very simple advice from that book — the “big three” that our mothers all told us, “Eat your vegetables, go outside and play, and get to bed early.”
I wonder how our “life expectancy statistics” would be faring in this country if we were all heeding that simple, yet powerful advice — covering the all-important topics of healthy eating, exercise, sunlight, fresh air, rest, and having fun — all in one sentence. The more I learned about the promotion of health, avoidance of disease, longevity and happiness; the more I realized that, while what we eat is very important, it wasn’t everything.
In addition to healthy food and the basics (water, clean air, sunshine and ample rest), we also need exercise and a positive mental attitude. I call it my “three-legged stool of health,” and we can’t achieve vibrant health if one of them is missing. Although I didn’t write much about exercise and mental attitude in my book, that wasn’t intended to suggest that they are any less important than what we eat. They’re just more complicated — especially the “mental” one.
For the mental attitude leg of my stool, I am talking about many things: love, family, religious faith, friends, a reason for living, passion, desire to make a difference, giving back — a purposeful life. What makes us want to live? What makes us do what we do? What is our purpose in life? Lots of questions whose answers are different for every human being. For me, I finally discovered my passion at age 58 — a passion that you can read all about in my book and on this blog every day.
My passion is all about promoting the return to the natural diet for our species for all of humankind. I have no doubt that we should be eating mostly whole plants. Further, I know from Dr. Esselstyn’s heart patients that simply changing one’s diet (to mostly whole plants) can reverse heart disease almost 100% of the time — without suggesting any change whatsoever in the other two legs of my stool; exercise and mental attitude.
I also have no doubt that if we all pursued a 4-Leaf lifestyle in the United States that our cost of health care would drop two trillion dollars, while millions of Americans would be living longer, healthier, and happier lives. Someone asked me recently, “why would anyone want to live to be 105 anyway?” My response, “How about the healthy 104-year old who just had great sex last night?”
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—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com
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