Saturday, July 28, 2012

So What Can We Learn from Olympians and Life Expectancy?

If you stayed up late last night watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you had a chance to see the surviving Olympians from the last time the games were in London in 1948. Since I’m fascinated by what impacts life expectancy, this made me wonder what the average life expectancy was of Olympians.

Shockingly, for elite world-class athletes, it’s 67 years of age, well below the national average in the United States by at least 10 years. If you are a pro football player, life expectancy is well below that of other top athletes, with the average age being 58 at the time of death. Actually, some of the stats I read put it even lower 55 and even 51. Part of it depends on the position you play.

Yikes! One things for sure, being fit doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy.

We’ve all seen the headlines when a young athlete dies on the basketball court or in the middle of a race. Generally these deaths are attributed to heart disease, many times a condition they were born with. Interestingly, a high percentage of these deaths could be avoided by screening. Needless to say, not wanting to be taken out of the game is reason enough for some of these athletes not to be tested.

By their mid 30’s, the leading cause of death becomes clogged arteries, which can be attributed to a less than healthy life style beginning in adolescents. Even though McDonald’s is one of the Olympic sponsors, the smart athletes avoid eating this type of food. However, stress and over training can contribute to this disease and can continue to create problems for the athlete as they age.

Certain sports, particularly American football, do not promote a healthy life style. Not only are players encouraged to “play through the pain,” certain positions are encouraged to “bulk up,” setting the player on a course of obesity. Among Sumo Wrestlers, the average life expectancy is 60-65 years of age, at least ten years lower than other Japanese men. Again diet and obesity contribute to this early death.

The incredible number of diseases and conditions relating to brain injury-even a series of mild concussions-are just now being documented. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are just some of the conditions resulting in early death for football players, ice hockey players, boxers, wrestlers and other athletes where it’s easier to sustain a brain injury. While Lou Gehrigs’ name is interchangeable with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), it is becoming apparent than he and other athletes are dying from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This is a progressive degenerative disease resulting from repeated concussions and other forms of brain injury.

Some athletes use “performance enhancing drugs,” which can have considerable negative impact on their life. Anabolic steroid abuse can cause heart damage and lead to a variety of mental health problems including suicidal behavior.

All things considered, which athletes live the longest? It appears to be those in track and field, or those sports that use isotonic exercise (moving arms and legs).

So the take home point? Go for the healthy lifestyle that includes moderate exercise (30 minutes five times a week is sufficient), stress reduction and preventive health screening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Take a Break: Celebrate Act Like a Caveman Day/Olympics

Today happens to be my birthday and, since it’s "Christmas in July," I figured there must be some special things people do on this day. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this is actually “act like a caveman day.” And just what is that suppose to mean? Who came up with that idea? For that matter, what is a caveman?

My guess is that “caveman” is supposed to be about early man, particularly Neanderthal people, who may have lived in caves, wore animal skins and hunted with spears. Clubs figured in there as well.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, early man had to have a whole set of skills we no longer possess. They had to understand how to read the winds, recognize smells and know which plants were healing and which could kill them. Cave paintings, which date back 40,000 years ago, showed that Neanderthals were capable of producing symbolic art. Many scientists had long doubted whether Neanderthals were capable of producing symbolic art. But that's begun to change in recent years, thanks in part to the discovery of pigments, tiny art objects, and what might be body paint at Neanderthal sites, according to Paul Bahn, a cave art expert and a member of the Archaeological Institute of America. "There remains a rump of blinkered scholars who still consider Neanderthals to be brutish savages, little better than animals, but fortunately they are a dwindling minority," Bahn, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.” I think almost all objective scholars now fully accept Neanderthal art." National Geographic

So instead of stomping around, making grunting noises, which I suspect many figure is called for on this day, consider doing some of the following in honor of “act like a Caveman Day.”

• Learn about early man where you live. In Vermont, because of the ice age, that would be about 11,000 years ago. Having volunteered on a prehistoric dig, these people were highly skilled, creating projectile points (arrow heads) and even beads. It was an amazing experience to hold something that had been created 11,000 years ago. To get started, if you live in the United States, find your state archaeology association and see if there is information on their website.

• Explore the paintings in the caves of Chauvet and Lascaux.

Create your own cave painting.

Learn about flint knapping, making an arrowhead.

Don’t feel like “acting like a caveman? The Olympics start in a few days, so be inspired by the men and women who were at the 1948 Olympics, the last time they held in London.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paying for Healthcare: What are my options?

This post was originally named “No Job/No Health Insurance/No Care: What Are My Options?” With the economy being what it is, and the increasing number of people who are employed, but have no health insurance, it is being updated to reflect changes that have taken place since it was originally posted approximately two years ago.

There are three areas to consider. First is what can you do to keep yourself in the best possible health, so it reduces need for medications and medical visits. This can be difficult, particularly if you are under a lot of stress due to a job loss and/or mounting expenses. Second is where to go for free and/or sliding scale fee care in your community. Finally, developing “social capital” can assist you in multiple ways.

Step 1: Research shows that chronic illness can be eliminated or significantly reduced by maintaining a healthy life style. Below are links to help you live as healthy a life as possible.

University of Minnesota Taking Charge of Your Health

Beth Israel Medical Center Continuum Center for Health and Healing New Approaches to Chronic Disease

Preventive Medicine Institute (Dean Ornish program for reversing heart disease)

50 Terrific Social Sites for Healthy Living

Wise A project of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, offers tools and skills to making changes in the brain that benefits the whole person.

Blue zones Power 9: Power 9® show you how to live longer through the specific lifestyle habits shared by the world’s longest living people. These lessons emphasize making changes to your environment that will influence your habits.

• Check local news sources, as well as ask your medical provider, about free healthy living classes, smoking cessation, exercise and similar programs.

Step 2: Below are links to help you identify resources in your community where you can obtain free and/or sliding scale fee care.

• Federally funded health centers provide care on a sliding scale fee and include the following services: checkups; treatment; pregnancy care; immunizations; dental care; prescription drugs; mental health and substance abuse care. Find a Health Center.

• Many states have free clinics. Locate a clinic by going to If you live near the border of another state, be sure to check both states. Some free clinics provide dental care.

• Most hospitals have programs and policies regarding uncompensated care. You can learn more about this by searching on line for your state and/or hospital with the term “uncompensated care.” The Hill-Burton program, a federal program, which expired in 1997, has 172 hospitals and nursing homes that are obligated to offer free and/or reduced fees.

• Contact the national organization and/or local chapter that pertains to your health condition. Use the Medline Plus list of Organizations to help you identify the appropriate organization.

For dental care, search the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a division of the NIH, Finding Low-Cost Dental Care

For eye care

- National Eye Institute’s Financial Aid for Eye Care

- EyeCare America: A Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology-provides eye care for the medically underserved

For prescriptions

- Prescription Assistance Program

- Free Medicine Program

- Needy Meds

- Together Rx Access

- Rx Assist

- Tricare Senior Pharmacy For uniformed services beneficiaries 65 years of age or older.

• If you are a veteran, you are eligible for care through the Department of Veterans Affairs

• Contact your local Community Action Agency (CAAs): CAAs are nonprofit private and public organizations established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to fight America's War on Poverty. Depending on the CAA, they can provide information and referrals, food pantries, income management, housing, jobs, and health care. Most CAAs will have someone on staff that can help you fill out forms for state funded health insurance if you qualify.

• Apply for state and federally funded health insurance (Medicaid and Medicare). While Medicare is generally for those 65 and over, many people with chronic conditions qualify for this program. You can apply on-line for Medicare.

- Medicaid is a state run program, and as such has different eligibility criteria and applications. Contact your local CAA about how to apply for Medicaid in your state.

- Contact your state’s health department for other types of health insurance that may be available.

• Some conditions, such as HIV, have special funding structures for care. The best way to find out about these programs is contact your local health department and/or condition specific organizations, e.g. American Diabetes Association

• For additional resources and information, contact your state’s 211 helpline

Step 3: Developing “social capital” is defined in business terms as the degree to which an organization or community collaborates and cooperates (through such mechanisms as networks, shared trust, norms and values) to achieve mutual benefits. (Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth) In terms of this blog , social capital refers to mutual benefits available in your relationships to neighbors, family, friends, work, church, and community .

An idea that’s been around for eons, simply put by helping each other we build a strong community, which can help us in our time of need. A good example is the film “It’s A Wonderful Life.” George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), rich in social capital, but financially poor, helps his community and family time and again. When the chips are down for George financially, his social capital kicks in and saves him, and helps Clarence earn his wings in the process. If you haven’t watched the film, the last part makes no sense.

To help you understand a bit better what your social capital might be, answer the following statements on a scale of 1-5 with one strongly disagree and five strongly agree:

• If I need help around the house, I know I can count on my neighbor, family or friends.

• I often exchange favors with other members of my community-e.g. picking up items from the grocery store for a friend; watching someone else’s children.

• If I were seriously ill, I know I could count on my neighbors, family, or friends for help.

• If something serious happened to a neighbor, such as a death, fire or major illness, I would be there to help them.

• If something serious happened to me, my community would rally around me.

If most of your answers are 4’s and 5’s you probably have good social capital. You can cash in on this in many ways-someone who knows someone can help you find a job; assistance in finding a local health provider who will see you for free; and help when you need it most.

If many of your responses are three or lower, Check out 100 Things You Can Do to Build Social Capital.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Take a Break: Enjoy a “fire pit” and S’mores

It’s pretty hot out, but at least our nights are cool in the Northeast. Consequently, many have a fire pit of one sort or other and spend hours sitting around it, late into the night. So today’s “take a break” is all about relaxing with fire on a summer night.

First things first, you need a fire or a facsimile of one. Depending on where you live, some of the ideas below will work better for you than others.

• Fire Pit Container: It’s after the 4th of July, so check garden stores and other such places to see if they’ve put their fire pits on sale. However, there are scrap items that work well as fire pits, such as an old tire rim. Check out other fire pit ideas.

Beach Fire

• Float lit candles in a large bowl. Even better to float them in a swimming pool, lake, stream or river. For an “open water” fire, make a small raft using sticks, twigs or even craft sticks and glue a votive to it. Make sure to collect them after you’ve finished.

• Group candles together or a set of lanterns

If you live in the city, and think this isn’t possible for you, group some candles together, and turn off the lights. You can always enjoy the virtual campfire. Be sure to click the full screen button. In a dark room it’s quite effective.

So you now have a fire to stare at, which is enough for many people. However, what’s a fire without s’mores?

The traditional way is to roast the marshmallow over an open fire (I’ve even used my gas stove for this) and layer it between graham cracker, chocolate and graham cracker. It’s a very decadent sandwich. You can make them in your microwave if you are going the “virtual” route by layering the items and setting the timer for 10 seconds, depending on your microwave.

Some ideas for creating different s’mores:

• Use different types of marshmallows-they come in all sorts of flavors now.

• Yes graham crackers are traditional, but they too now come in a variety of flavors-chocolate, cinnamon and even gluten free. You can use something other than a graham cracker, such as Nature Valley Granola Thins or a crispy mint or other type of cookie.

• The chocolate is where you can really mix it up by using things like peanut butter cups, mints, Nutella or a very good quality chocolate. You can also add peanut butter or caramel

• Add some sliced fruit, such as banana, apple or strawberries. Elvis would probably approve of a marshmallow, peanut butter and chocolate s’more. Guess he’d want bacon. Not so much.

• Try the adult s’more, which includes dunking your marshmallow into your favorite liquor.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Super Better: Increase Your Life Expectancy by Playing a Game

After writing last week’s post, Healthy Communities Promote Longer Lives: One explanation for Life Expectancy Among Early Settlers, I have found myself delving further into longevity, and why and how people survive. Since the founding couples of my town exceeded 21st century life expectancies, let alone 18th century pioneer life, I was curious about American presidents, the Founding Fathers and the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Even including Hamilton’s unfortunate duel with Burr, and some doctors who killed their presidential patients (Washington and Garfield), the longevity trends hold up.

This may seem like a diversion, but it’s not. This week, I was once again contacted by a group of people in my state, which received a mental health grant to “help” those “impacted by Irene.” Yes, that’s a step up since they no longer use the word “victim.” They wanted to set up a booth at our town wide tag sale. Since those of us that have been working the front line of this situation since day one are in agreement that this appears to be meeting their need and not our residents, we told them no. Actually, one of our town’s ministers suggested that for a fee of $500-$1,000 they could set up a table in his chapel. He likes to tell them, when they call to offer their services, “can we have the money instead?”

With these various ideas and issues swirling around in my head, I happened to come across a TED talk by Jane McGonigal. A gamer, she developed suicidal thoughts as a result of having a concussion that was not resolving.

My brain started telling me, Jane, you want to die. It said, you're never going to get better. It said, the pain will never end.

Having heard some variation of that from many people I’ve worked with over the years, I was completely intrigued. Besides at the beginning of her presentation, she promised that by watching her talk you’d extend your life by approximately 7.5 minutes. If that isn’t a hook for people with chronic conditions, I don’t know what is.

And these voices became so persistent and so persuasive that I started to legitimately fear for my life, which is the time that I said to myself after 34 days -- and I will never forget this moment -- I said, I am either going to kill myself or I'm going to turn this into a game.

Now, why a game? I knew from researching the psychology of games for more than a decade that when we play a game -- and this is in the scientific literature -- we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we're more likely to reach out to others for help. And I wanted to bring these gamer traits to my real-life challenge, so I created a role-playing recovery game called Jane the Concussion Slayer.

The game she developed revolved around the following:
• Adopt a secret identity -You know there was a lot of that going on with those founding father types, since many were freemasons, a group that specializes in secrets.
• Recruit your allies-Family, friends, neighbors and even other countries were involved in the Revolution.
• Battle the bad guys-Believe that would have been the “red coats.”
• Activate the power ups-Things that made you more successful. Lafayette would definitely have been in the “power up” column.

So her game would have helped the early American groups, which were already playing a version of it anyway, but how did that work for McGonigal in dealing with her depression? Did it have any bearing on how my town has been dealing with flood recovery? Most importantly, how does it help people who are dealing with chronic disease?

As for McGonigal, she recruited her family to help her identify what were the triggers that made her feel bad and what were the things that improved her mood. But even with a game so simple, within just a couple days of starting to play, that fog of depression and anxiety went away. It just vanished. It felt like a miracle. Now it wasn't a miracle cure for the headaches or the cognitive symptoms. That lasted for more than a year, and it was the hardest year of my life by far. But even when I still had the symptoms, even while I was still in pain, I stopped suffering.

Does the game translate to people with other conditions? Now what happened next with the game surprised me. I put up some blog posts and videos online, explaining how to play. But not everybody has a concussion, obviously, not everyone wants to be "the slayer," so I renamed the game SuperBetter.

And soon I started hearing from people all over the world who were adopting their own secret identity, recruiting their own allies, and they were getting "super better" facing challenges like cancer and chronic pain, depression and Crohn's disease. Even people were playing it for terminal diagnoses like ALS. And I could tell from their messages and their videos that the game was helping them in the same ways that it helped me. They talked about feeling stronger and braver. They talked about feeling better understood by their friends and family. And they even talked about feeling happier, even though they were in pain, even though they were tackling the toughest challenge of their lives.

And for me, who continues to deal with people who are insisting that our town’s residents are going to end up with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she gave me new language. The game was helping us experience what scientists call post-traumatic growth, which is not something we usually hear about. We usually hear about post-traumatic stress disorder. But scientists now know that a traumatic event doesn't doom us to suffer indefinitely. Instead, we can use it as a springboard to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives.

Here are the top five things that people with post-traumatic growth say: My priorities have changed. I'm not afraid to do what makes me happy. I feel closer to my friends and family. I understand myself better. I know who I really am now. I have a new sense of meaning and purpose in my life. I'm better able to focus on my goals and dreams.

Interestingly, these are the reverse of what hospice workers report as being the things people regret on their death bed.

After considerable amount of research on McGonigal’s part, she concluded that There are four kinds of strength, or resilience, that contribute to post-traumatic growth, and there are scientifically validated activities that you can do every day to build up these four kinds of resilience, and you don't need a trauma to do it. These are:

• Physical Resilience: Now we know from the research that the number one thing you can do to boost your physical resilience is to not sit still. That's all it takes. Every single second that you are not sitting still, you are actively improving the health of your heart, and your lungs and brains.

• Mental Resilience: determination and willpower. We know from the scientific research that willpower actually works like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. So tackling a tiny challenge without giving up, even one as absurd as snapping your fingers exactly 50 times or counting backwards from 100 by seven is actually a scientifically validated way to boost your willpower.

• Emotional Resilience: If you can manage to experience three positive emotions for every one negative emotion over the course of an hour, a day, a week, you dramatically improve your health and your ability to successfully tackle any problem you're facing. And this is called the three-to-one positive emotion ratio.

• Social Resilience: Reaching out to one person you care about every single day.

When I look at these four points, we had to do this every day to recover from the devastation of Irene and our founders and pioneers had to implement them to win our freedom. In short, no wonder our founders lived such long lives and it’s no surprise that our community is doing so well given all it’s had to deal with.

For some really good news, It turns out that people who regularly boost these four types of resilience -- physical, mental, emotional and social -- live 10 years longer than everyone else. So this is true. If you are regularly achieving the three-to-one positive emotion ratio, if you are never sitting still for more than an hour at a time, if you are reaching out to one person you care about every single day, if you are tackling tiny goals to boost your willpower, you will live 10 years longer than everyone else,

So even though it’s not a Wednesday, my official “take a break day” on this blog-take a break and play SuperBetter and/or watch McGonigal’s Ted Talk.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Take a Break: Do something with all those pictures

Today’s “take a break” came about because I’m dealing with lots of peoples’ photographs from tropical storm Irene. As the coordinator of our local historical society, I wanted an interesting way to use them for our summer exhibit and also be able to easily archive them for future generations.

Like many people, you probably have a stash of photographs in a box or drawer somewhere, as well as having a growing digital collection. Below are some ideas of fun things you can do with photographs:

• Display them in old or interesting bottles: Just roll the photograph up and insert. Use bamboo skewers and/or long tweezers to position.

• Frame them using old frames from the Dollar Store, thrift store, yard sales etc.

• Run a string and hang pictures with clothes pins. You can continually change the display, as well as. add other items pertaining to the pictures to create some interesting wall art. At a recent graduation party, clothes line was strung back and forth between two trees. There were three tiers of pictures hung between other memorabilia for the graduate.

Wall Picture Collage: This is a terrific idea, as I can do a series of these on 81/2 X 11 foam core, which will easily slip into archival sleeves as the end of the exhibit.

• Create a “family tree.” Lots of ways to do this. You can download one of the many
family tree icons readily available on-line and just paste (literally or digitally) photographs of your family. Martha Stewart offers a variety of ways to do that.

• Put a photograph in a locket.

• Glue or decoupage photographs to create magnets, holiday ornaments, gift boxes, vases, jars, serving trays.

• Create calendars and/or books

Some other sites to check out

Creative wall displays | get those photos off your hard drive

10 Fun Things to Do with Photos

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Healthy Communities Promote Longer Lives: One explanation for Life Expectancy Among Early Settlers.

It’s rare that I write an article that I can post on both Healing Whole and the Cavendish Historical Society blogs, but this is one that I think has broad appeal.

In preparing for a workshop I’m running on July 15 called, Lotions, Potions and Notions: 18th through mid 19th Century Folk Cures, I was impressed to find that of Cavendish’s founding couples, only one died in their mid 70’s and all the rest in the their 80’s and 90’s. John Coffeen died at 75 and his wife Susanna at 94. Salmon Dutton was 80 and his wife Sarah was 83. Rounding out the group was Leonard Proctor who was 93 and his wife was 84 at the time of their passing. Interestingly, there was no doctor to treat the family, so what was their secret?

Was it something they grew in their garden? Could it have been all the apple products that were part of their life? Was it their lifestyle? Genetics?

According to Linda Welch, the author of “Families of Cavendish, Vol 1”, Early Cavendish people, though, were farmers-pure and simple and self sufficient. They planted their own crops, raised their own livestock and lived independently from the food they produced from their own labor. “

So while a variety of aspects may have played a role in their longevity, I decided to look at how well they might have followed the nine principles of the “Blue Zones,” those parts of the world with the longest living people. Called the Power 9 , here’s how my town’s settlers would have stacked up:

1. Move Naturally: The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.

The settlers’ life would have required them to be moving throughout their day.

2. Purpose Now: Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. The Okinawans call it “ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”

From surviving letters and stories, the original settlers understood very clearly the role they played in their community. During the Revolutionary war, Capt. Coffeen described his wife Susanna as the prettiest woman in town. Although not that attractive, she was the only woman in town during that period. In recognition of her efforts during this time, she was given land in her own name. Dutton established what is now the village of Cavendish, while Proctor created what is still known as the village of Proctorsville. Coffeen was the county’s representative to form a Constitution for the new State of Vermont.

3. Down Shift: Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, which is associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.

Long winters, Sunday worship, quilting bees etc. were built in times of rest for the people of this era.

4. Eat Wisely-80% Rule: America has been eating its way well beyond health. Our strategy focuses on taking things out — instead of putting more things in — our diet. “Hara hachi bu” – the Okianawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomach is 80 percent full.

Given that food had to be grown or killed, there were bound to be times that even 80% full would have felt like a luxury.

5. Plant Slant: Go ahead and eat meat if you want. But consider it a condiment and try the leanest, finest meat you can afford.

Gardens were key to these Northern New Englanders. Many times supper was beans with a bit of salt pork for flavoring.

6. Wine @ 5: Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 drinks per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

I’m not sure about the drinking habits of the early settlers. However, I suspect they all made apple jack (hard cider) and drank it from time to time. Did they do it every day? Probably not. However, one of the first things that John Coffeen did was to establish a Tavern.

7. Belong: Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

The first church was established in Cavendish in the late 1700’s and was shared by several different denominations. However, not all attended church and in the early years, there wasn’t a sufficient number of people to form a congregation. According to genealogist Linda Welch, “Religion, worship and piety was a part of daily life of early American society so it was not surprising Cavendish, Vermont established its first organized church at Cavendish Center prior to 1800.”

8. Loved Ones First: Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means keeping your aging parents and grandparents near by or in your home. (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.) Work on being in a positive, committed relationship (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in your children with time and love. (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes.)

Family was key for these settlers. As Linda Welch notes in “Families of Cavendish, Vol 1, “It was essential in this back country that a man’s family be large to provide for the unending need of spare hands to complete the tasks necessary for daily living. It has been said that in those early days, a man’s worth was assessed by counting the numbers of boys he had to work and the girls he had to sew and cook, as well as counting the tools he had and the acreage he owned. … A family needed a strong paternal and maternal involvement for survival which tells us why so many widows and widowers remarried within months of losing their spouses.”

All three families had strong intergenerational relationships, with the children remaining in town, starting businesses etc. However, the westward expansions in the 1800’s did attract many of the early settlers children and grand children.

9. Right Tribe: The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness is contagious. Assessing who you hang out with, and then proactively surrounding yourself with the right friends, will do more to add years to your life than just about anything else.

Many of the behaviors that plague modern America weren’t issues for the settlers. Smoking would have been a luxury item and their daily life didn’t lend itself to people becoming obese. However, death from disease and accidents were quite common. In many cases, two or three or more children lost in a family over a 12 to 15 year period was the rule rather an exception.

Maybe the best example of how the settlers lived the 9 Principles of a Blue zone can be found in the Coffeen Cemetery, which is not far from the front door of the house, which was located on the Cavendish Reading Road, close to Brook Road.

Not long after Coffeen settled in Cavendish, he and his wife set out for Charlestown, NH for supplies and grinding their grist. Due to a snowstorm, the parents did not return for six weeks. During this time, one of the Coffeen children became ill and died. The other children kept the body in the house until the parents returned, at which time, due to heavy snow, the body was buried across the road from the house. Coffeen decided that this would be the family’s cemetery.

As you read the gravestones, you’ll find not only Coffeen family, but also close friends of theirs, as well as four Revolutionary soldiers. This small cemetery , tucked into the Green Mountains, tells the story of a large family, who had strong faith, loved their country and community and set out to create a better life for themselves, resulting not only in the shaping of a new town but also the creation of a new state.

While we can’t be sure that all nine principles of the Blue zones were met, I think they came pretty close. This then brings up the question, which I think is very relevent to our on going national discussion about healthcare and insurance-is a healthy community as important or more important than high end medical care? My money is on the healthy community.

The program Lotions, Potions and Notions: 18th through mid 19th Century Folk Cures will be held at the Cavendish Historical Society Museum on July 15, 2 pm. This is a free event. For more information

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Take a Break: Celebrate the 4th of July 2012

It’s the 4th of July, one of my truly favorite holidays of the year. It’s all about food and fireworks. What could be better? So below are some things to do quickly that will hopefully put your in a festive mood:

Make Red, white and blue strawberries: Dip strawberries that have been patted dry, into melted white chocolate. Melt the chocolate by either putting a 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips in the microwave and zap in 30 sec intervals until melted, or melt in a double boiler. Dip so that the white chocolate comes a little more than half way up. You want to be able to see the red. For the blue, try one of the following:
- Immediately dip the tip of the strawberry into blue sugar. You can easily make your own sugar by putting some white sugar into a baggie, dropping in a little blue food coloring, seal the bag and smash until you have the color blue you desire. You can use left over sugar to make meringues (see below).
- Add blue food coloring to the melted white chocolate, along with a little bit of vegetable oil, and you’ll get a baby blue color, which can be drizzled over the dipped strawberry.

Make Blue Meringues: I found that blue meringues, with either white or dark chocolate, are quite the hit for 4th of July parties. Use your favorite meringue recipe-I tend to use one that requires at least six hours drying time in a 350 degree oven that is turned off as soon as you put the meringues in. I used the blue sugar from the strawberries to create the color. Since meringues are sensitive to wet, I find it best to color the sugar, let it dry completely and then add.

Color a stars and stripes mandala

Watch Yankee Doodle Dandy

Say it with Firecrackers-Watch Fred Astaire performs one of the most amazing dance routines with fire crackers, from the film Holiday Inn

Light your own fireworks on-line Better yet, write a message in fireworks over the London skyline

Read past 4th of July Take a Breaks: 2010 or 2011