Everyone wants to know the secret to a long, healthy life. But there is one group that appears to have a jump on the rest of us.
The Amish. This religious sect that live mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana and eschews most modern gadgetry have always had a health advantage; in 1947, the average life expectancy in this county was 47, but for the Amish it was 79. Now, although the rest of us have caught up in that regard, the Amish still enjoy a significant edge in late-life health.
Why? The first reason is lifestyle. All labor is manual, so these people are more active, resulting in an obesity rate of only 4%, compared to 36.5% of the overall population. This means lower rates of Type 2 diabetes. And there is little tobacco use (although some men smoke cigars), so cancer rates are lower.
The Amish do eat a diet rich in meat, salt, and carbohydrates, so their rates of heart disease and high blood pressure are slightly higher than the rest of us.
But there is one more factor to consider — genetics. This is an insular population that has descended from only 200 families that came to this country in the 1700s. Normally intermarriage can be dangerous, increasing the risk of inheriting the bad genes. (There is a short, entertaining video at AsapSCIENCE called “What Happens When You Inbreed?” https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#label/AsapSCIENCE/161f1df71f72ebef). While no community is without genetic problems, the Amish seem to have lucked out; several beneficial genetic traits have been identified in this community.
And if you’re not Amish, so what? There is one more factor for old age than can apply to us all — family. Relatives care for their elderly at home. This provides a quality of life in later years that is hard to duplicate any other way.
That can be a lesson for us all.
For the details, see “Amish People Stay Healthy in Old Age. Here’s Their Secret” By Jeffrey Kluger at http://time.com/5159857/amish-people-stay-healthy-in-old-age-heres-their-secret/ . The illustration came from that site.