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In Pursuit of Hara Hachi Bu

Chasing Life book by Dr. Sanjay GuptaResidents of Okinawa live long and healthy lives. They are more likely than any other people to reach 100 years. They have a lower frequency of heart disease, stroke, and cancer than those living elsewhere. Prostate cancer is unusual and breast cancer rare in their population.

     The health story behind Okinawan longevity is just one that Emory neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta explores in Chasing Life. His new book juxtaposes the latest scientific research and medical breakthroughs with stories from around the world about the relationship between health and culture. He visits beauty clinics in Moscow that supposedly deliver cosmetic stem cell treatments and introduces readers to people like James Hammond, at 92 a world-class sprinter and national record holder.
     The book, a guide to functional aging, presents facts and debunks myths with a goal of helping readers extend their active lives. Gupta distills conflicting information, from the role of dietary supplements to the influence of attitude and stress on wellness, and he presents effective choices for improving health and living longer.
     As for the Okinawans, it turns out they have no special longevity gene. When they move away and adopt the lifestyle of a new country, they quickly develop a life span in line with their neighbors. Their secret to long life lies in how they live: working hard from an early age and not stopping for retirement (a word that doesn’t exist in their dialect), eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and unrefined carbohydrates, and a tradition of hara hachi bu. “The phrase means eat until only 80% full and then stop,” writes Gupta.      “From a neuroscience perspective, this makes a lot of sense. The area of the brain that lets us know that we are really full usually lags several minutes behind our actual eating.”
     And at least one Okinawan woman has another piece of advice for those who want to duplicate her health. At 103, she continues to sell green oranges each day at a bustling farmer’s market, often assisted by her boyfriend, who is 76. “Get a young man,” the vendor says. “The younger the better.”

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