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Some keys to long life

marciadottin, [email protected]

Some keys to long life

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THE JURY may still be out on why Barbados has so many centenarians, but the witnesses point to factors including religion, a good diet, hard work and excellent health services.
The longevity issue came up again when Barbados paid homage to its more than 90 centenarians during a luncheon and awards ceremony at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Sunday.
“It cannot be simply good genes and good food,” Minister of Social Care Steven Blackett told the gathering.
“There must be more to it; possibly a combination of factors: good food, strong bodies, exercise, good medical care, a good disposition to life’s challenges, a wholesome physical environment, good family relationships and I could go on.
“The jury is still out on this and I am hopeful that someday we will be able to point to a few factors and say these are the main contributing factors to the longevity of Barbadians, so that we can all attain to living long, healthy and fulfilling lives.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John told the DAILY NATION a study done on older people about six years ago pointed to factors including diet and a healthy lifestyle.
“In our analysis, the oldest of the old people are the healthiest because they had the right diet and the right lifestyle, and they were close to God,” she said.
“That . . . ensured they have had not only long lives but healthy lives. So we need to get back to that whole good diet, not fast food, lots of exercise and a closeness to God, if we want to make sure that we have long, healthy lives.
“[Living that long] is also a testimony to the health services, of course. Whenever you see that kind of longevity in a society, it’s usually a testimony not only to the inner strength of the older person but also the services: the fact that there’s good sanitation, access to health care, running water, good food and so on.”
The diet in these cases turned out to be “lots of ground provisions, low on salt, low on sugar and fat”, according to St John.
“Normally, in that day and age, people would have grown a lot of their foods and they would even have raised their chickens . . . and they did that for most of their lifes.
“So there was a greater emphasis on food that was not heavy in salt and had lots of herbs. They would have taken their bush tea instead of taking Coca-Cola and when they wanted to get to town, they would walk instead of taking the bus or having a car and sitting down in traffic inhaling the fumes.”
Chairperson of the National Committee On Ageing Maizie Barker-Welch said many of the centenarians were and are churchgoers.
They had also led busy lives, some having worked as agricultural labourers, she said. Their meals were largely ground provisions.
“The absence of synthetic foods in those days did not hurt them,” she added.
Most of the centenarians listed God as the main reason for their long life, she pointed out.
As for Etheline Lewis, daughter Thelma Lewis said the feisty centenarian believed she lived so long because of “eating potatoes and yams and receiving the grace of God”.