A Natural Recipe for Longevity
When asked the question ‘What is the most important thing in life?’, after the usual frivolous responses such as ‘loads of money’, ‘driving a Ferrari’, or ‘good plastic surgery’ most people will say ‘Your health.’ A concomitant of this must be having a high quality of life, and a long one. Longevity. The problem of mortality is fundamental to the inherent anxiety of the human condition, and throughout history people have searched for ways to prolong life.
Nowadays, with the advantages of modern media and the accessibility of data, we are able to narrow down the prerequisites for a long and healthy life. A quick study of a list of countries organised according to their life expectancy produces some extraordinary revelations.
The UK comes way down the list at 20th, and the USA, a shocking 34th. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan still comes out at the top, but one of the other surprises is the status of Spain and Italy, both in second place. If you narrow this down further, it is possible to identify individual regions where life expectancy is exceptionally high. One of these is the beautiful mountainous region of Italy, known as Le Marche.
Cities are notoriously unhealthy environments for human beings. There are many well-known reasons for this – air, sound and light pollution, the easy availability of fast foods, overcrowding and, of course, stress, being amongst the major factors. But rural areas also vary in their statistical results with regard to longevity.
So which features of daily life in Le Marche might be significant to its healthy reputation?
The value of the so-called ‘Mediterranean diet’, with its regular use of olive oil, a wealth of fresh, locally-grown fruit and vegetables, the low proportion of meat in the diet, not to mention the moderate but regular consumption of red wine, is already well-documented. Le Marche has adopted a policy of resisting the introduction of fast food outlets.
Food is still very much a family and local affair. The best meal is that prepared by mamma using locally produced, seasonal ingredients, cooked slowly and using time-honoured recipes. This ensures that everyone eats a wide variety of foods over the year, cooked in such a way that all the nutrients and flavour are retained.
Wine is much appreciated here, and the local wines are superb, but people have what one might call a ‘mature’ attitude to the consumption of alcohol. Drunkenness is not encouraged, but children are brought up to value the experience of drinking high quality wines, both from the social and the aesthetic perspective, and something which can be shared by the whole community, regardless of age or social group.
Physical exercise is, of course, an important factor in maintaining good health. It is clear from looking at the data that people who live in mountainous terrain tend to live longer. This might be simply because walking up and down steep slopes is a normal part of daily life, promoting a strong heart and good circulation.
It could also be because of the purity of the air. It might also have something to do with the visual environment. Could it be that people who live in a beautiful place with vistas which carry you away into philosophical and spiritual reveries actually enjoy better mental and physical health? It could well be so.
The question of spirituality is a thorny one, but it is such an essential element of daily life in Le Marche that it cannot be ignored. Religion is still fundamental to daily life, and attitudes to community and, above all, family, are paramount. People look after each other, and older people are still held in high regard, along with their traditional values and moral principles.
Children are celebrated and adored, but bad behaviour is firmly discouraged. And maybe, just maybe, being surrounded by beautiful buildings and magnificent works of art, as well as the glorious mountain and ocean views, give people a lightness of heart and – dare I say it – happiness! And, as we know, a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.
It is impossible to define precisely what gives local people in Le Marche such a head start in the longevity stakes, but it may be as simple as the fact that people eat well, take healthy levels of exercise, and enjoy a level of well-being which stems from living in a caring community in a beautiful environment. Simple!
Le Marche's Five Essential Ingredients to a Long and Healthy Life
1 - Seasonal produce, locally grown
2 - Home-cooked food from centuries-old family recipes
3 - Deep-rooted family and community-based faith and spirituality
4 - Unspoiled landscapes providing something for everyone - from one to 100, and for the adventurous and not-so-adventurous - with snow-capped mountains, rambling hillsides and 180 km of sandy seaside
5 - Unrivaled cultural heritage - past and present - with architecture, art, music and archaeology from more than 3,000 years of civilisation