Not so long ago, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely prescribed for menopausal women to alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia, as well as to protect against osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia and aging. Even women who were content to age naturally were sometimes pushed into taking hormones. For example, my mother decided against hormones, and was told by her doctor, “All right then, you can just let your skin sag and watch your body age quickly.” Unfortunately for women, hormone replacement turned out to have unexpected negative consequences, as long-term clinical studies showed that HRT increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, blood clots, and hormone-related cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer—even with short-term use. HRT is also associated with a significant increase in lung cancer and death from lung cancer. It’s almost unthinkable, but HRT has even been prescribed for women with breast cancer, with the result being double the reoccurrence rate of cancer (J Natl Cancer Inst 2008; 100: 475-482).
This may seem to be a radical stance, but I believe it is mistake to think that illness and disease are an inevitable part of the normal aging process. Although we may think of aging in relation to outward appearance, the way we look reflects only certain aspects of age, some of which are superficial–such as gray hair and laugh lines. How we think and feel inwardly–including our energy and zest for life–and the way our brain, bones, digestion, immune system, and the rest of our body functions is a much more accurate indication of our aging status.
I’m intrigued by research on the Blue Zones, which are essentially hot spots of longevity. In these areas of the world, it’s not uncommon for people to still be living active, healthy lives beyond the age of one hundred. So far, researchers have identified five Blue Zones:
These areas are diverse geographically, culturally, and spiritually. But what they have in common is a lifestyle that naturally supports all of the facets of good health: physical, emotional, and spiritual. People fortunate enough to be born in Blue Zones eat healthfully (a plant based diet, accented with small amounts of animal protein). Continue reading “Secrets of the Blue Zones: The World’s Hot Spots of Longevity”