Back in 2020 when Covid hit I was scared. I knew if I was ever infected by the virus, I would be at high risk of being hospitalized and even dying. I was in the high-risk group. I had lifelong breathing problems due to chronic asthma which began when I was a kid. I was also an older male. Watching the T.V. reports of hospitalizations and deaths and seeing people being put on ventilators in hospitals, one thing stood out. Many of the people were overweight.
For more than fifty years I have worked in the healthcare field and specialize in men’s health. I try and practice what I teach. I exercise daily, eat a mostly plant-based diet, have a good network of friends and family, and what the Japanese call Ikigai–a sense of purpose, a reason for living. But I wanted to “up my game” and do everything I could do to improve my chances of remaining infection free and healthy.
I followed my doctor’s advice and got vaccinated and boosted as soon as I was eligible. I increased my daily exercise routine to include walking up and down hills to improve my lung capacity. I also followed author Michael Pollan’s simple guidance for health:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
For him, “food” includes what our grandparents would recognize, not the current Standard American Diet (SAD) with increased additives of sugar, fat, salt (My grandparents never ate twinkies, Red Bull energy drinks, or French fries.) Where most people I knew gained weight during Covid, I lost ten pounds, and was down to my healthy weight when I was in high school.
We all know the basics of eating well. We just have a difficult time doing it. There is so much food hype and advertising that eating healthy often seems impossible and people everywhere are becoming overweight and obese. Fortunately, help is on the way. Dan Buettner, the best-selling author of the Blue Zones series of books, is coming out with an incredibly useful resource: The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100. You can learn about Dan’s work about his explorations of areas throughout the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives at his website, DanBuettner.com. You can also preorder the book and receive a boatload of resources right away.
Dan is one of my health heroes. Beginning in 2004, he teamed with National Geographic and the National Institute on Ageing to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better, longer lives. The original Blue Zones regions included Okinawa in Japan, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, the Greek island of Ikaria, Loma Linda in California, and the Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy, where there were a particularly high percentage of long-lived men as well as women.
“These men appeared to retain their vigor and vitality longer than men almost anywhere else,”
That fact really drew my attention. The same year that Buettner began his studies, my colleague Randolph Nesse, MD along with Daniel Kruger, PhD published a study that examined premature deaths among men in 20 countries. They found that in every country studied, men died sooner and lived sicker than women and their shortened health and lifespan harmed the men and their families.
For me, their conclusions were a call to action:
- “Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death.”
- “Over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the U.S. alone if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.”
- “If male mortality rates could be reduced to those for females, this would eliminate over one-third of all male deaths below age 50 and help men of all ages.”
- “If you could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer.”
I had been working with men’s health issues since 1969. After reading about Dan Buettner’s work with Blue Zones and Randy Nesse and Daniel Kruger’s work on the longevity gap between males and females, I refocused my work at MenAlive to teach healthy practices that would help men and their families. Most recently, I have launched a Moonshot for Mankind community to help men and their families live healthy, long, lives.
In his book, Dying to Be Men, Dr. Will Courtenay asks,
“Why do men and boys suffer more disease and disability, and die younger, than women and girls?”
Courtenay cites extensive research and details ten health-promoting practices that are less often engaged in by males compared with females. He says, for instance, that
“Men and boys, in general, have less healthy lifestyles than women and girls, and they engage in far fewer health-promoting behaviors. For example, men are more often overweight than women, and they have less healthy diet habits. They eat more meat, fat, and salt and less fiber, fruits, and vegetables than women.”
I know that was true for me. Growing up in the 1950s, my mother believed that boys and men needed to eat a lot of meat. At the time, it was common to buy a side of beef that was cut into steaks, chops, and burgers and delivered to a big freezer we kept in the garage. I grew up eating meet three times a day. As a single mom, it was the easiest thing for my working mother to prepare quickly. It wasn’t until I became an overweight adult that I learned that this Male American Diet (MAD) was not only unhealthy, but it shortened our lifespan.
In the introduction to Dan’s book, The Blue Zones American Kitchen (I was honored to have received a pre-publication copy) Dan has a picture of his father who looks to be about my age. There is a caption saying,
“My ‘meat and potatoes’ dad, Roger Buettner, taste-tested every recipe in this book.”
He and Dan have their arms around each other, each have big smiles on their faces with their thumbs up.
“This book could help you live an extra 10 good years,”
The word “good” is important. No one wants to live longer if those extra years are filled with ill health and heartache. The first paragraph lays out a few of the facts.
“In 2022, 750,000 people in the United States will die from eating the standard American diet. Among those deaths, nearly 443,000 will die from high blood pressure, 213,000 from high blood sugar, and 158,000 from high cholesterol. Meanwhile, in 2022, Americans will spend approximately $3.7 trillion on health care, 85 percent of it on treating preventable diseases largely driven by what we eat.”
Unlike most recipe books, this one is beautifully photographed and the recipes are ones that even a klutz like me could manage. What is even more enticing, is that the recipes are based on what is good and healthy in our American heritage, including the following:
- Indigenous, Native, and Early American.
- African American.
- Latin American.
- Asian American.
- Regional and Contemporary American
I can’t wait to share the book with my family and friends. You can also learn more about health in my latest book, coming out soon, Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity. In the book I talk about the Blue Zones Project which brings the Blue Zones principles and practices to local communities. There are now 70 communities across the United States, impacting millions of people, including one where I live in Mendocino County, California.
We can all use support to eat a healthier diet. Blue Zones can help men, women, and children. We can’t do it alone, but together we can make difference for good.
If you’d like to pre-order, The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100 by Dan Buettner, you can do so here.
You can learn more about my own work at MenAlive.com. If you’d like to receive more articles on health and well-being, please subscribe to our free newsletter.
You can learn more about our Moonshot for Mankind Movement and Community here.
Together we can help heal the world.
The post Blue Zones American Kitchen and How Men Can Live Long and Well appeared first on MenAlive.