By Dr. Nicole Marcione PhD
INDULGING IN THE SCIENCE AND SENSUALITY OF LONGEVITY
If you’re like me, you’re probably obsessed with the Mediterranean way of life. As a research scientist, I’ve been trained to look at what the data reveals, and as a woman in midlife with Italian heritage, I’m always looking to bring more pleasure into my daily life. I can’t help but integrate the two: the evidence-based science and the magic of a pleasure-based life.
This is what La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) truly means to me. So let’s go exploring together…. Grab your scarf, handbag, and sense of adventure as we get into our vintage Fiat convertible, and drive down the coast in search of 5 ways to experience all the pleasure we can… while also adding to our longevity.
My favorite Italian saying is La Dolce Far Niente which loosely translates into the sweetness of doing nothing. It’s not actually doing nothing, it is slowing down to savor, to take it all in. Savor a smell, a panorama, a meal, an espresso, a beautiful drive, a gorgeous pair of boots, a lover, a limoncello. To linger 3 or 4 hours over a meal seems extravagant to many, but when you are living La Dolce Vita, 3 or 4 hours might just be enough time to have a deep discussion with loved ones while relishing in all the bounty of the season, to completely enjoy it all.
When we slow down, so does our physiology. Our blood pressure goes down, our heart rate settles, our stress hormones (i.e. cortisol and adrenaline) decrease and our pleasure hormones increase (i.e. dopamine and serotonin). We trigger our parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest/heal) to kick in, while turning down our sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze). This, in turn, activates our physical and emotional bodies to repair and restore. The more we create this slowing down and enjoyment in our life, the longer and (more importantly) the healthier we live.
We can’t possibly continue on our exploration without talking about The Mediterranean way of eating, in particular extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). That liquid gold that has sustained the Mediterranean way of life for millennia. It’s not just drizzled on everything, it down right drenches everything.
Not only is it delicious, it has so many incredible properties for longevity, such as antioxidants and polyphenols that have been directly linked to preventing many age-related diseases like cancer, dementia, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. So next time you sit down to eat a meal, be sure to drizzle (no dredge it on!) some EVOO on everything: soups, meat, eggs, avocado, bread, legumes, and all your veggies! You can even eat it therapeutically by the spoonful!
La Dolce Vita, in its truest sense, is one filled with physical movement. Walking to the store daily, climbing the stairs of the village, strolling to the piazza to see friends and grab the latest gossip and going-ons, the famous “passeggiata”: an after-dinner saunter to continue the savoring of all that happened during the day.
Scientific evidence shows that daily walking is one of the best (if not the best) forms of exercise for longevity. In fact, walking speed is a predictor of mortality. This means that the quality of your walking ability actually predicts not only how long you will live, but if that life will be one worth living: full of vitality and vibrancy!
Community, connection and a strong sense of belonging permeates this way of life. Spending time with friends and family is a priority, and not just “spending time”, but creating moments together that make this bond stronger with the passing of time. In the famous Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, talks about how every centenarian and long-lived individual that they interviewed always mentioned having family and close friends as part of why they thought they lived such a long, well-lived life.
So, whether it’s going to church, a weekly tennis match, or a Sunday afternoon lingering over wine and dinner, the science reveals that living a socially-connected life will add to your health and longevity. Appreciating beauty in all its forms and at all ages. Whether it’s the beauty of youthful effervescence or the beauty of weathered skin and wisdom.
When we are living in the essence of La Dolce Vita, we can’t help but have a greater awareness and gratitude for all the beauty that we experience throughout our lifetime. Recognizing that even when we have challenges and heartache to endure, all the beauty and wonder and awe overwhelms our spirits to a point where we can’t help but be thankful to be alive; living La Dolce Vita.
After reflecting upon these 5 ways, I think there are many more for us to uncover together. Thank you for coming along with me on this fun Italian escapade, in search of the science and sensuality of longevity. I hope that we meet again soon for another caper full of beauty and evidence-based shenanigans.
“Ci vediamo presto”… see you soon. Ciao!
The article was first published in the Issue 18
Read more from Dr. Nicole Marcione PhD