One of the things I enjoy about living in the Sarasota, Florida, area is the heritage associated with early Spanish explorers. Ponce de Leon was the first Spanish explorer who came to Florida. According to legend, he came looking for the fountain of youth.
If the legend is true, Leon was at least half right because Florida is full of fountains, boasting nearly half of all the natural fresh water springs found in the continental U.S. Our accountant in Florida is also convinced about the other half — citing statistics (as only actuaries can do) about improved longevity and lifespan that results from moving to Florida.
But new research suggests that Leon, in a way, carried the “fountain of youth” with him right in his heritage. Recent national statistics show the Hispanic population has a longer lifespan than any other population group in the U.S.
Of course, modern geneticists argue longevity has everything to do with “genes.”
But I believe there’s more to it than that.
“Good genes” only take you so far
As a medical anthropologist, I have often found that aspects of heritage beyond DNA — such as lifestyle, culture, family, and other social and behavioral factors — also profoundly impact health and longevity.
And some of those factors may help explain the increased longevity seen in the Hispanic population. Especially when you consider the fact that on average Hispanics still have somewhat lower socio-economic status and less access to modern healthcare — which the Obama administration believes should shorten lifespan.
Of course, as I always have reported, getting more modern healthcare may very well shorten lifespan.
I also consider that Hispanic involvement with family, community, and traditional values provides positive support and ways of dealing with stress. All of which help offset the risk factors that often accompany lower socioeconomic status, such as being overweight and higher exposure to “vices” such as alcohol and tobacco.
Some scientists, of course, refer to the longer lifespan among Hispanics as the “Hispanic paradox.”
The paradox that isn’t a paradox at all
You’ve probably read my reports about the supposed “French paradox” and the paradox of Italian-Americans in Roseto, Pennsylvania.
These groups have exposure to all the “risk factors” of the government’s favorite political targets: smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, eating fats. But they all somehow have lower levels of chronic diseases and longer lifespans, contrary to the government’s theories.
Let’s be clear.
When the scientific facts don’t match the politically correct narratives, the government simply calls it a “paradox.” Some of these government political scientists should have Gilbert & Sullivan for their theme song, “A paradox, a paradox; a most ingenious paradox…”
Of course, modern medicine wants to find the magic gene that explains these paradoxes.
But that explanation won’t really work when it comes to Hispanics. In the U.S., people statistically classified as “Hispanic” may have Spanish European, Native American, ancient Aztecan, Incan, or Mayan, and/or African ancestors. So no one genetic background could likely explain the increased longevity. Because they often have a wide mixture of genes.
Unlocking the secret to Hispanic longevity
According to new research out of UCLA, Hispanics and Latinos indeed live longer, healthier lives. In fact, the UCLA researchers, led by Dr. Steve Horvath, observed that Hispanic and Latino cells actually age more slowly. But it’s not only because of their “good genes.”
For the new study, the UCLA team analyzed DNA samples from nearly 6,000 people.
They used several biomarkers including an “epigenetic clock” to determine the cellular or biological age of participants. In other words, they looked at markers to determine the age of the participants on a cellular level. Not age by birth date.
It is also interesting they looked at epigenetic factors, which involve changes in the regulation of genes. They don’t involve changes to the genetic DNA content itself.
That is good news, because you can’t change your genes. But you can change the factors that INFLUENCE your genes.
So what did they find?
The UCLA researchers calculated the biological age of an indigenous group of Native Americans in Bolivia as four years younger than Caucasians. Latinos were two years younger than Caucasians. By gender, Latina women came in at 2.4 years younger than non-Latina women of the same chronological ages.
These findings correspond to data from CDC showing that Latinos live an average of three years longer than Caucasians. A 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that Latino adults have a 30 percent lower death rate compared to other ethnic groups.
So again, this is good news, even if you’re not part of the Latino or Hispanic community. It means you can change certain lifestyle factors to impact your cellular age.
And as I have reported before, other research shows that lifestyle, nutritional factors, such as vitamin D, and even stress reduction and relaxation all influence epigenetics.
Some good recommendations:
- Keep an active lifestyle with light-to-moderate exercise three times a week.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and fish.
- Make sure to take 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily.
- Take steps to reduce stress by spending time in Nature, practicing mindfulness meditation, or listening to music. Also, my two books can help in your quest to stay stress free: Your Emotional Type and New World Mindfulness.
Clearly, environmental factors you can control have a significant impact on your lifespan. So the real “fountain of youth” lies within your own hands.
“Latinos age slower than other ethnicities, UCLA study shows,” UCLA Newsroom (www.newsroom.ucla.edu) 8/16/2016