I operate on the hypothesis that the lower your biological age — your body’s real physical manifestation of the aging process — the healthier you are likely to be.
Then the question becomes, “What are the key elements that affect biological age?”
Dan Buettner, the National Geographic fellow who identified the Blue Zone areas of the world (small areas in Italy, Japan, Greece, Costa Rica and California), found five categories that differentiated them from other places – sense of purpose, exercise, food, spirituality and social relationships.
We can look at these kind of epidemiological studies as a kind of recipe guide for our own lives. Unfortunately, children and grandchildren of these families in these same places are not living as long or well.
As I noted before, the word “health” comes from the root word of “wholeness.” Reducing the elements of people that live long and well to inform our own lives may be insufficient to enjoy the same longevity.
Maybe it is instead our perceived relationships to other people and to our lifestyles that really count.
To this end, I have previously blogged on the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the important predictive value that childhood trauma has on future life events and on longevity.
Of interest, the ACE survey is based on your perception of these events in your childhood.
Similarly, a locality’s rankings on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index may represent community resilience that offsets childhood trauma in five areas of health — physical, community, social, financial, occupational – that are based on your perception of your status.
Anne Case and Angus Deaton reported that a group of 45-55 year old non-Hispanic whites are dying at rates not seen since the peak of the AIDS epidemic. The root cause appears to be social isolation and loss of social capital, from despair and hopelessness, that is based on their perception of their lives.
Lastly, the work of Elissa Epel and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn showed that if a person self-identifies as having chronic and long-standing stress, they age faster than if they do not.
What if our health and longevity is purely based on our perceptions of our lives, our places in our families, communities, states and country?
Could it be that changing mindsets could change health and build resilience?
I think so and that is a key strategy we are using in changing the stories we tell ourselves and each other from negative to positive; from hopeless to hopeful; from scarce to abundant; from fear to love and safety; and from sick to well.
Looking at the other end of the telescope, as WVU President Gordon Gee likes to say, this makes sense.
Since we are constantly creating with the universe (see previous blogs on wave-particle duality) and that the labels and perceptions we place on our interactions with the world drive our lives, we are affected by not only what we see, but also importantly, how we see it.
Change the interactions and perceptions and be healthy.
Like the Blue Zone folks, that just intended to live full and great lives, together as part of a community and family.
This is a secret we are exploring in West Virginia.