Dan Buettner is a National Geographic writer and explorer.
Only 10% of what it takes to live to 100 is genetic. He first looks at some longevity myths:
- If you try hard, you can live to be 100. False. Humans are designed to die – evolution only allows us to be old enough to procreate.
- There are treatments that can stop or reverse aging. False. As we get older, our cells fail to replicate, damage accumulates.
So there are body-imposed limits – roughly 90 years is achievable, but the average American lives to be 78. So we could get those 12 years back with minimal loss of life quality.
Dan worked with National Geographic to look at areas where people frequently live to be 100.
- Sardinian highlands (off Italy) for example have 10 times the US rate of centenarians. There are a number of lifestyle and dietary differences, but also cultural. Dan focuses on the way they treat the elderly – they show great respect for their wisdom.
- Okinawa archipelago (Japan) – the oldest female population, and the oldest disability-free life expectancy in the world. Lower rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and average age of 85. They eat mostly vegetables and tofu, and have a few strategies to prevent overeating. They have smaller plates, serve food before they eat it (making it harder to go for seconds), and have an adage to stop eating before they are full. The elderly also stay active – they form tight and old friendship groups (staying together in groups for 90 yrs or more), and always keep a reason to get up in the morning rather than just retiring to do nothing.
- In USA the oldest population were 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda California. Average age of 11 years older than the average American. One key is the 7th day itself – a day off without stress, nature walks are common. They also are a tight knit community, and their gatherings reinforce their wholesome values. Dan shares stories of 3 centenarians, all still working or staying active.
So what can we learn from these groups:
- Move Naturally – these people do not exercise in the usual sense, but keep walking and gardening, moving up and down stairs. Active movement is build into their lifestyles
- Positive outlook – the 3 groups take time out – to pray or talk. They also have a sense of purpose in retirement.
- Eat wisely – they have a plant based diet, though usually not purely vegetarian. They often have a drink in the evening, and keep from overeating (stop eating when 80% full).
- Connect – these cultures are tribal and stick together. They tend to respect the elderly and have a sense of belonging. Their friends also have the same healthy values, so reinforcing a good lifestyle.
Interesting talk. He says it all, not much to add.
Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who, through writing, lectures, and built work, advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design.
The worst idea Americans have ever had is urban sprawl, and it is being emulated in other countries. Through it the automobile, that was once a symbol of freedom, has become a gas-belching, time-wasting, life-threatening prosthetic device that people need just to live their daily lives. Jeff wants to make cities more walkable to free us from relying on cars, for 3 reasons
- Economic: in the 70s the average american spent 10% of their income on transport, now the spend 20%. Working families now spend more on transport than housing, since they travel further to find cheaper houses.
- Health: in the 70s 1 in 10 Americans were obese, now it is 1 in 3. The current generation is expected to live a shorter life than its predecessor. Jeff sees this as an urban design problem – by denying people chances to be active in their daily life. There are clear correlations between how walkable a region is and the obesity of its residents. Asthma rates are also up due to car exhaust. Car accidents are the single largest killer of healthy adults. We think of it as a natural event, but rates are far less in cities which have been designed to reduce car usage.
- Environmental: Cities reduce CO2 emissions per capita, with densely populated cities reducing emissions more. However cities can always reduce more.
Portland has instituted policies to differentiate it from other US cities. It has instituted a city boundary to limit sprawl, reduced the width of roads, and increased cycling infrastructure. As a result, Portland residents drive 4 miles and 11 minutes less per day – which is saving 3.5% of their income. It has also attracted young workers, because people want to be in that sort of city.
Jeff argues our houses are getting greener in the wrong way. We’re looking for greener gadgets and ideas to add to our houses, but the impact of energy saving bulbs is a fraction of the impact of living in a walkable city. People shouldn’t be afraid of selling the lifestyle of living in a more walkable city. The lifestyle of people living in cities is studied and these studies show that people are happier in cities with better sustainability. It isn’t an easy transition, but it can be done and is worth trying.
Winston Churchill said “Americans can be counted on to do the right thing, once they have exhausted the alternatives”.
Speaker: Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver, a British chef and TV personality, delivers a talk on the importance of food education. Jamie presents a series of health related statistics. “Statistically, 2/3 of the people in this room are overweight or obese.” “25% of deaths are caused by heart disease” He talks about his experiences, visiting Huntington, West Virginia, the most obese town in the United States and shares the personal stories of a few of the people he met there. His conclusion is that there is a triangle of influence that is shaping the landscape of food.
- Unhealthy food served at home
- Reaches 31 million kids , twice a day, 180 days a year
- Serves highly processed food (burgers, pizza, sloppy joes)
3) Main St
- Made up of fast food and supermarkets
- Plagued by misleading labels (low fat, means high sugar)
After showing a clip of some young students misidentifying cauliflower as broccoli and turnips as onions, Jamie lays out his vision of the future. He calls for food ambassadors in supermarkets to help people shop and teach them to cook simple healthy recipes.. He wants the government to help get big brands to put food education at the heart of their businesses. Back in Huntington, WV, Jamie worked on swapping the unhealthy menus of the schools there with healthier foods. He was able to make the switch for $6500, a fraction of their original budget.
Jamie ends his passionate speech with his TED Prize wish: “For you to help a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”
Speaker: Paula Johnson
Women are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with depression, and misdiagnosed 30-50% of the time. Women and men are fundamentally different at a cellular level, and need different treatment. However, this is not always recognised, despite data showing sex differences in clinical treatments.
Paula described Linda, a female heart patient with a blockage in her artery. Doctors conducted the standard test, and could find no evidence. Paula’s institute analysed Linda’s arteries again and found that her blockage was a different shape to the standard blockage – more of a constant reduction in artery size, as opposed to a single point of blockage.
She gave another example, where women appeared more resistant to lung cancer. Paula has found estrogen can suppress lung cancer, which could have important results for treatment of both male and female patients.
Despite these examples, analysis of trials does not differentiate between sex, which ignores the potential to discover more differences. Paula suggests that when women go to the doctor they should ask the doctor if their illness should be treated differently – to get them to start researching the differences. “Women’s health is too important to be left to chance” – which is what is happening if research does not investigate the differences correctly.