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Healthy Aging Secrets from The Amazon

What if you were 80 years old but felt only 50? Shaving three decades off the entire aging process isn’t realistic, but a recent study showed that there are ways to keep your arteries, at least, feeling youthful. Researchers found that the Tsimane people (pronounced chee-mah-nay), of the Bolivian Amazon, have the lowest reported levels of vascular aging for any population studied. In fact, they experience hardening of the arteries (called coronary atherosclerosis) five times less commonly than we do in the United States. For this week’s Healthy Habits, steal a page from the Tsimane people, and see if you can boost your own well-being. The Tsimane:

Move. A lot. While we in industrial countries sit at desks or recline in our BarcaLoungers for more than half of our awake time (54 percent of our day), the Tsimane spend a mere 10 percent of their day being inactive. Because they live a subsistence lifestyle, they stay mobile to get their food: hunting, gathering, fishing and farming. Men spend an average of six to seven hours of their day physically active, while women spend four to six hours, the study reported.

Eat nonprocessed foods. Their diet is mostly carbs (yes!) at 72 percent. But before you get too excited, that’s non-processed carbohydrates, which are high in fiber. To eat like a Tsimane person would, sample rice, plantains, cassava, corn, nuts and fruit. Protein constitutes 14 percent of their diet and comes from animal meat such as wild game and fish.

Easy on the fats. Only 14 percent of the diet, or about 38 grams of fat each day, are fats, including 11 grams of saturated fat. There weren’t any trans fats in their diets at all.

They don’t smoke. Among the Tsimane, smoking was rare.

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