An 80 year-old Amazonian is healthier than the average Westerner in their 50’s

we can learn some great lessons in heart disease prevention from the Tsimane people of the Amazon

Although perhaps you aren’t going to move to the wilderness, live in a thatched hut and start hunting and gathering, we can learn some great lessons in heart disease prevention from the Tsimane people of the Amazon jungle, according to a recent study.

As well as their healthy heart condition, these indigenous people of the Bolivian Amazon region also have low blood pressure, low blood glucose and low cholesterol.

An 80 year-old Tsimane person has the same vascular age as an average westerner in their 50’s. So how do they achieve these results?

The Tsimane lifestyle suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed, fibre-rich carbohydrates is the place to start. Along with also eating small amounts of wild game and fish, not smoking and being active throughout the day could help prevent hardening in the arteries of the heart.

Now, wild game is a little hard to find on the average Aussie menu, but we can try to include other factors into our lifestyles that provide equivalent benefits to those that the Tsimane enjoy.

The researchers behind the report say that the loss of these subsistence diets and lifestyle play a large part in modern health conditions, and could be classed as new risk factor when it comes to heart disease.

Hunting, fishing, gathering, and farming activities keep the men working for six to seven hours a day, and the women working four to six hours a day. And the Tsimane people spend only 10 percent of their waking hours being inactive. That compares with a 54 percent inactivity level in people in industrialized nations such as Australia.

The message we can draw from this is to keep moving, and eat well – low cholesterol and high-fibre. The Tismane people’s plant-rich diet, which is 72 percent carbohydrates, includes non-processed foods such as rice, corn, nuts, and fruits. Their diet is about 14 percent protein, coming mostly from animal meat.

Here in Australia however, it’s really the opposite of that these days. Poor diet and inactivity are the highest risk factors for heart disease. A study of heart attack patients across 52 countries found that hardening of the arteries can be avoided for most people.

The main heart disease risk factors for people in industrialised nations such as Australia are smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.

The study indicates that most of the Tsimane are able to live their entire lives without developing any coronary atherosclerosis at all, which is extremely unusual for our Western populations these days.

Expert reaction to the study shows the Tsimane lifestyle is much like that of our ancestors, their diet is not dissimilar to many Westerners, but their physical activity habits could not be more different.

Says Prof. Naveed Sattar, University of Glasgow, “Simply put, eating a healthy diet very low in saturated fat and full of unprocessed products, not smoking and being active life-long, is associated with…the lowest risk of heart disease.”

This study provides strong support for well-known health messages relating to diet and physical activity. Simply put, eat well, keep moving and don’t smoke.

60 is the new 50 … and now it’s been proven

Researchers found an increase our years living free of disability – great news as we all now live to a riper, older age as well, according to the statistics.

 

Looks like we’re living longer and staying more fit and healthy as we get older, says a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recently. Researchers found an increase our years living free of disability – great news as we all now live to a riper, older age as well, according to the statistics.

The report predicts that of children born today, boys could expect to live an average of 80 years, and girls could expect to live an average of 85 years. Significantly though, the report showed that on average:

  • men at 65 now can expect to live around another 20 years, and
  • women at 65 can look forward to just over another 22 years.

To quote Groucho Marx, ‘Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.’ However, life expectancy is an interesting statistic, but our wellbeing as we get older is also significant. For keeping tabs on healthy aging, looking at life expectancies at 65 was appropriate.

And the great news is the report found Australians aged 65 in 2015 have seen increases in the number of years living free of disability. So it seems living longer doesn’t necessarily mean living with increasing disability! Care to dance?

Although definitions of ‘disability’ change, it’s an umbrella term for participation restriction which last more than 6 months and restrict everyday activities.

When it comes to disability after 65:

  • men can expect to live another 9 years without disability, and
  • women on average another 10 years disability-free.
  • men aged 65 in 2015 could ‘expect to live, on average, around 10 years with some level of disability, including 3 years with severe or profound core activity limitation and needing help with 1 or more activities of self-care, mobility and communication.’
  • Women are better off and could expect to live around an additional 10 years free of disability but could experience around 12 years with some level of disability. This equates to women living around half their remaining life after 65 with some disability, including living 25 percent with severe or profound core activity limitation.

All–in-all, it seems Australians who reach the age of 65 gained, on average, more years without severe or profound core activity limitation than years with it. Great news, it seems we are living longer, and staying more fit and able!

 

Full details of the ‘Life expectancy and disability in Australia: expected years living with and without disability’ at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare