There is no need for most of us to die from age-related diseases, but fully 70% of us do.

I'm speaking here of heart disease, adult onset diabetes, cancer, dementia and several others. These are often called chronic diseases, or sometimes degenerative diseases, because they are long-term and can start silently when we are young.

But the truth is we can prevent most of them, and reverse a lot of them as well. The tools are there, the healing and repair processes are part of our genetic inheritance, but we have been getting in our way. For those whose lifestyle habits and actions support these processes, age-related diseases are rare, and aging itself is slow. But unfortunately, those who understand what those habits and actions are, and consistently do them, are very few.

Who gets sick?

Who gets spared?

How do we know for certain that degenerative disease can be avoided? Well, for starters, there are identifiable groups all over the planet that get almost none of these conditions. There are hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied regularly for at least the last 100 years, as well as specific areas around the globe called "Blue Zones" where people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than here in the United States.

These zones include the peoples of Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan and Ikaria, Greece, among others. The interesting thing about all this research is that members of these groups rarely get cancer, heart disease or any other degenerative diseases while living their traditional lifestyles. In fact, it was the near total absence of cardiovascular disease among the people of Uganda that inspired health pioneer Nathan Pritikin to adopt their diet and lifestyle to escape his own encroaching heart disease. It worked so well, Pritikin reversed his heart disease and helped thousands of others to do the same.

What if we were to adopt some semblance of a hunter-gatherer, or "Blue Zone," lifestyle today? Would that reverse our degenerative diseases? Many times, the answer appears to be yes. It has been reported in more recent times that various members of the Australian Aboriginal tribes have moved to the cities, only to become soon afflicted with various "modern" diseases, then returning to the bush and finding their newly acquired diseases disappear. It's not genetics primarily -- it's the diet and lifestyle that matters more.

Quantitative medicine

Since, presumably, most of us cannot return to a hunter-gatherer existence (or would even want to!), how can we achieve the same healthy state to reduce disease risk? The answer begins with another interesting observation from hunter-gatherer tribes all over the globe. Despite living under vastly different circumstances and eating widely diverse diets, all the healthy people have certain attributes in common.

These attributes are revealed in quantifiable biomarkers, like blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, etc. For these people, all such measurements fall into the same desirable ranges. For example, the Hadza in Africa have a total cholesterol of 114 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter), the Australian Aborigines 146, and the Greenland Inuit (Eskimo) 141. I could name several others and they all come in under 150. And heart disease is rare to nonexistent in all who do.

Similarly, blood pressures, even into old age, tend under 120/80 with 110/70 being common. The people may have very different diets and lifestyles but as long as they get the similar good numbers they enjoy similar good health.

Live longer, live stronger

So with that in mind, Bradley Wellness Center wanted to put together a program this August outlining many of the most important biomarkers, how to test for them, and most importantly, how to restore them back to younger levels. Utilizing the information from this class, I have been able to lower my cholesterol over 70 points (without drugs!), improve my blood sugar, lower my blood pressure and inflammation, and even elevated iron levels, while improving things like my vitamin D level and more. I even lost body fat I didn't need to lose!

If you would like to discover some of the fastest and easiest ways to lose weight, firm up and reverse the aging process I urge you to join me in this August's "Live Longer, Live Stronger" program. Classes start Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m. and run for six weeks, until Sept. 10.

What's more, I'd love for you to test drive this new program by coming to our free orientation class on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Call (706) 278-WELL to sign up or learn more.

Thomas Morrison is a fitness coordinator at Bradley Wellness Center.

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