By Guoyuan Huang, Ph.D. and Sunny Huang, B.S.

The Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education

University of Southern Indiana

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For centuries, the human race has pondered on the topic of longevity. In the 21st century, we have designated a quantifier of longevity as deemed by the International Federation of Natural Medicines. If 100 residents in a population of one million people are 75 years of age or older, the area is considered a place of longevity. However, even into the 21st century, little is understood as to the mechanisms of aging and how we can extend the duration of human life in both a healthy and productive manner. So, many national and international longevity experts have turned to studying the lifestyles of residents in places of longevity. One of these locations is Bama Yao Autonomous County in Guanxi, China.

Known as the land of longevity, Bama County of China has been attracting expert geriatricians from around the world since 1992. It was first recorded during the Qing Dynasty that residents of Bama County had extremely long life expectancies compared to their counterparts living in other areas. Today, in an area of 1,976 square kilometers reside about 260,000 people, where 81 residents are over the age of 100 and 712 residents are over the age of 90. These numbers far exceed the international standards for a place of longevity.

However, not only are these residents living longer – their lives are also productive and healthy. There are no serious health problems among the older population. In the area, there are virtually no hospitals and clinics, not because there no resources but because there is no need or demand for them. Much of the elderly population has never been to a hospital in their entire life. Those that do visit the hospital are usually treated for minor illnesses such as colds and fevers.  Therefore, for the past few decades, researchers worldwide have been trying to identify the factors that are responsible for the Bama residents’ longevity.

Bama County is in a remote, mountainous area of Guanxi  Zhang Autonomous Region in southeast China. The weather is very temperate – temperatures are always around 20°C (about 68°F).

Very much isolated from the rest of China, Bama County is an unspoiled ecosystem with no pollution. Experts suggest that this isolated environment contributes to the health and well- being of the Bama residents.

In addition to the untouched environment, Bama County is also unique in a few other ways. The amount of sunlight that Bama receives is at a special intensity where the amount is the perfect amount of both infrared and ultraviolet radiation. In addition, Bama also has an increased amount of negative oxygen ions, which can eliminate free radicals and protect the body from chronic diseases, especially cancer. Due to the geomagnetism of the area, water forms into hexagonal crystals. These hexagonal crystals are more easily absorbed by cells, allowing for better metabolic activity. This magnetic field is also believed to help blood circulation.

Finally, in addition to these unique environmental characteristics, Bama residents also are

physically active and consume a very healthy diet, which is low in protein, fat, and cholesterol. Most residents eat one to two meals per day that consists of seeds, bamboo shoots, corn, and whole grains. As a result, the older population in Bama rarely develops those major chronic health problems such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

With the ideal environment, healthy diet, and physical activity or exercise, Bama residents are able to lead long and healthy lives into their 90s and 100s. Although, not everyone around the world can have access to the environmental benefits of Bama residents, we can all learn a lesson from them – to eat healthy and do physical activity or exercise.

Sunny Huang is a USI graduate and MD-PhD student at University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Guoyuan Huang is associate professor of exercise science and member of the advisory council for the Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness, which helps plan the Mid-America Institute on Aging, co- sponsored by the University of Southern Indiana and SWIRCA & More.

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