Live Long and Die Fast

The average life expectancy in North America is 80 years. However, the aging population isn’t necessarily living longer, healthier lives; many adults are simply dying slower.

What’s the point of reaching your 80th birthday if you can’t blow out candles unassisted, can’t dance with your family, or even dress yourself? 

The human life span is rapidly increasing, but so are the odds of developing multiple chronic health conditions as you age. In 2012, 60 percent of older adults reported having two or more chronic conditions; conditions like heart disease, diabetes, emphysema, and cancer. Even if these conditions are “managed,” they can drain your wallet, rob you of your vitality, and lower your quality of life. 

This begs the question, is it even possible to reach old age and still be healthy? The answer is, absolutely! Blue Zones are the five places around the world where individuals are recorded to consistently live over 100 years of age, and retain their quality of life. There are fewer instances of preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A team of demographers, scientists, and anthropologists discovered nine commonalities among the Blue Zones, which they call the Power 9. 

The nine lifestyle choices focus on daily movement, a healthy plant-rich diet, belonging to a community, and living with purpose. Dan Buettner, a researcher who led the team that studied the Blue Zones, emphasizes that 90 percent of longevity has to do with your lifestyle, while the other 10 percent or less is based on your genetics. Furthermore, there is a huge emphasis on community and belonging. 

You don’t need to live in a Blue Zone to reap the benefits of the Power 9. You can easily apply these same lifestyle changes to your life and experience greater longevity and improved well-being. One Scottsdale-based chiropractor, Dr. Ricardo Lerma, is helping his patients do just that. Dr. Lerma’s clinic, Summit Chiropractic Health Center, focuses on restoring health through whole-person evaluation and care. 

“When I first graduated and started my practice, I was like everyone else, focusing on chiropractic and back pain. I would evaluate them, adjust them, and after a few treatments, their symptoms would go away. I felt pretty good about myself, but the conditions would inevitably come back,” Dr. Lerma explains. “It wasn’t until something flipped my family’s life upside down that I started looking at health and pain differently.” 

It was then that Dr. Lerma started considering every aspect of his patient’s lives – physical, mental, and social – during their visits. First, he wants to know what his patients are doing physically. Do they sit in front of a computer all day? Do they have a long commute to and from work? Do they work out or engage in physical activity like walking, biking, or a sport? “We are designed to go outside and hunt for 30 to 45 minutes. For those of us who do not hunt for our food, we need to exercise. I tell my patients to get outside, do some hiking, do some movement outdoors. That’s a big component to the physical aspect of our lives and overall well-being.” 

Dr. Lerma also takes into consideration what his patients are eating and drinking, what vitamins they take, and if they’re on any medications. “Chemical stress influences the genome, so we started to examine and change patients’ dietary choices to optimize their wellness. It’s about finding their optimal health, so they can live their best and contribute to their lives,” says Dr. Lerma. 

Part of Dr. Lerma’s dietary recommendations includes consuming more anti-inflammatory foods. His goal is lower omega-6 fatty acid intake while increasing omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. “What’s interesting is that you don’t really realize where these fats come from and how many are in your diet. Years ago I bought a can of tuna thinking it was going to be healthy. I looked at the label and saw the second ingredient was soy. So, you can’t get away from this stuff.” 

Dr. Lerma’s Recommendations: 

Anti-Inflammatory Oils to Enjoy

Avocado Oil • Coconut Oil  • Algae Oil  • MCT Oil 
Organic, Grass-fed Butter • Ghee

Oils High in Omega-6 to Avoid

Canola Oil • Safflower Oil • Sunflower Oil • Soybean Oil
Peanut Oil • Cottonseed Oil • Palm Oil  • Corn Oil

He goes on to explain that cattle eat large amounts of corn and soy, which upsets and inflames their gut, so antacids comprise a major portion of their feed as well. The negative effects of this type of diet are passed down to the consumer when they eat the meat. Same goes for chicken and eggs, explains Dr. Lerma. “Most stores are starting to carry omega-3 eggs now. The hens are fed flaxseed, seeds, nuts, bugs, and grass which is what they would typically eat. We just need to make an extra effort to find what previous generations used to consume.” 

Aside from focusing on the physical aspects of his patients’ lives, he has them delve into their mental and social health, as well. This includes managing stress, adopting a positive attitude, daily motivation and inspiration, engaging in hobbies, as well as developing compassion and gratitude. Dr. Lerma stresses the importance of developing healthy sleeping habits and practicing routine self-care. These habits can drastically improve your overall mental and physical health.

Regarding social well-being, joining a walking club, attending Bible study, or any other social activity is beneficial. The important thing to take away here is that meeting people face-to-face is best. On this, he says, “You need to get out of your comfort zone occasionally. For a lot of people, including me, it can be difficult which is why I help guide them. In the end, I think most people find it turns out to be an enjoyable experience. I can see how it benefits longevity.” 

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It is this definition of health and well-being that has helped inspire and guide Dr. Lerma’s philosophy. “My wife and I want to be around for our grandkids. Our goal is to live long and die fast at the end. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening with our aging population today. What we do today dictates our health ten years from now!” 

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