Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pura Vida! Blue Zones, Lifestyle and a Must Read Book

I recently returned from 12 days in Costa Rica, one of the planet’s blue zones - 5 spots on the globe where people frequently live well past 100. Blue zones are defined by the longevity of their people, and several lifestyle characteristics, among which are family, a plant based diet, constant physical activity, social engagement, a positive attitude and no smoking.

These characteristics are mirrored in a book that I highly recommend called, Anticancer - A New Way of Life, by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. Since cancer makes us feel completely helpless, it's important to take control whenever possible. One area we have control over is our lifestyle. For those who are sick, recovering, or just want to live healthy, this book is a must read. It has become a bible for me.

Since I was diagnosed again in 2006, I made several lifestyle decisions specifically aimed at how to best heal myself of metastatic disease. I spent about a year researching and developing my own treatment plan and implementing the advice of several alternative doctors and nutritional counselors. When I read “Anticancer,” I learned that not only was I on the right track, but I found tons of scientific evidence for what has become for me “A New Way of Life.”

Dr. Servan-Schreiber is himself a 15 year cancer survivor. While working as a research scientist on brain imaging, he was confronted with his worst nightmare: brain cancer. Having spent a year researching why some people get cancer and other people don’t, his book is full of sites to scientific studies that make any skeptic want to pass on the french fries. The premise of the book is to take control of these 4 areas of our lives: 1. our environment; 2. our diet; 3. our state of mind, and 4. our relationship with our bodies to stimulate our immune systems so that we can heal ourselves.

So who has time to revamp their lifestyle? It’s not as hard as you think. My favorite part of the book is chapter 8, The Anticancer Foods – not because I can cook, but because I love to eat. In fact, I usually don’t cook at all. Who has time? Most of the time I buy healthy foods and I warm them up. Thankfully, "Anticancer" is not all about sacrifice. I was thrilled to learn the scientific justification for eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine! See pages 127-128. The book points out how healthy food decisions can not only prevent cancer, they can prevent most other major diseases as well. Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s website has a blog component that addresses countless topics about fighting cancer and healthy living. My little blog can’t possibly add to the landscape that he has provided.

There’s a saying in Costa Rica, home of a blue zone, and the cleanest, most environmentally green spots on Earth. The saying is, “Pura Vida!” It means “pure life,” or “the good life.” It is used to say hello, goodbye, how’s it going, going fine, what’s up, good to see you, and other positive expressions connecting us to one another. It’s my new favorite motto. If it were a little shorter, I would name my new kitten, “Pura Vida!” It represents to me, living life the way that we were designed to live it: as healthy, happy residents of this planet, free of disease and capable of managing the stress of daily living in a complex world. I wish this for us all. Pura Vida!



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