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Unlocking the Secrets to a Long, Healthy, and Vibrant Life

By: Scott Van Den Berg, CFP®, ChFC®, CEPA®, AIF®, CRPS®, CMFC®, AWMA®

Throughout my 32-year tenure as a financial advisor, I've guided countless clients in growing investments, minimizing taxes, planning for retirement, and generating income. However, one principle is paramount amidst these financial pursuits: YOUR HEALTH! 

In my view, good health is the ultimate wealth! While financial assets hold value, good health is beyond measure. It serves as the bedrock on which you can genuinely enjoy your wealth. Without robust health, financial success loses its significance. It's crucial to remember that the true purpose of wealth is to enrich your life and the lives of your loved ones. 

Prioritizing health helps ensure that your financial accomplishments translate into meaningful and satisfying experiences. Just envision having substantial wealth but being unable to savor life's pleasures due to health challenges. It's not solely about longevity; optimal health helps ensure pain-free living and an elevated quality of life. Integrating health into your financial strategy is imperative. Allocating resources for wellness, insurance, and preventive care fortifies your financial stability against unforeseen health-related expenses.

Expanding on the importance of prioritizing health within the context of financial planning, I'd like to share some eye-opening insights from two impactful works on health and longevity: "How Not to Age" by Dr. Michael Greger and the Netflix series "Blue Zones: Live Longer and Better." These resources and one of my favorite books, "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, delve deeply into the interplay between diet, chronic diseases, and overall well-being. 

By synthesizing the knowledge from these sources, we can develop a thorough understanding of extending lifespan and enhancing its quality, reducing discomfort, and preempting health issues. I believe these insights are invaluable in shaping a holistic approach to health, a crucial aspect that significantly influences one's financial well-being.

In "How Not to Age," New York Times bestselling author Dr. Michael Greger presents a comprehensive guide to slowing aging through lifestyle choices. The book is rooted in scientific and medical research and emphasizes the role of diet, exercise, stress management, and avoiding toxins in promoting longevity and a higher quality of life.

5 Key Points in How Not to Age

  1. Plant-Based Diet: Dr. Greger strongly advocates for a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. He highlights specific nutrients and dietary patterns that support cellular health and reduce inflammation, contributing to less pain and fewer medical issues.
  2. Regular Physical Activity: The book underscores the importance of regular exercise, recommending various types of physical activities to maintain muscle mass, cardiovascular health, and overall vitality, which are essential for a higher quality of life.
  3. Stress Management: Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and adequate sleep are discussed as essential components for reducing chronic stress and its detrimental effects on aging, thereby promoting a healthier, pain-free life.
  4. Avoiding Toxins: Dr. Greger advises minimizing exposure to environmental and lifestyle toxins that can accelerate aging and cause health problems.
  5. Scientific Insights: The book is rich with the latest research on aging, providing evidence-based advice to debunk common myths and promote strategies that enhance life quality.

The Netflix series "Blue Zones: Live Longer and Better" explores the lifestyles and environments of the world’s longest-lived people. Dan Buettner, who introduced the concept of Blue Zones, identified regions with unusually high numbers of centenarians: Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), and Loma Linda (California).

7 Key Points in Blue Zones

  1. Plant-Based Diets: Inhabitants of Blue Zones predominantly consume plant-based diets, rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, with minimal meat and processed foods. These diets contribute to fewer health issues and a higher quality of life.
  2. Regular Physical Activity: Daily physical activity is integrated into their routines through natural movements such as walking, gardening, and manual labor, promoting mobility and reducing the risk of chronic pain and diseases.
  3. Strong Social Connections: A sense of community and strong social bonds play crucial roles in their lives. They provide emotional support and a sense of belonging, which is vital for mental well-being and overall life satisfaction.
  4. Purpose in Life: Having a clear sense of purpose, often referred to as "ikigai" in Okinawa or "plan de vida" in Nicoya, motivates and gives meaning to one's daily activities, reducing stress and enhancing one's quality of life.
  5. Stress Reduction: Meditation, prayer, napping, and spending time in nature help manage stress and promote mental well-being, contributing to a healthier, pain-free life.
  6. Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Moderate and regular alcohol consumption, particularly wine, is common in some Blue Zones, usually enjoyed socially and with meals, contributing to cardiovascular health.
  7. Healthy Environment: The physical environments of Blue Zones encourage healthy behaviors, with walkable communities, access to fresh food, and spaces for socializing, supporting a higher quality of life.

"The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II is a seminal work examining the link between diet and chronic diseases. It presents findings from the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, a large-scale epidemiological study conducted in the 1980s.

5 Key Points in The China Study

  1. Link Between Diet and Disease: The study observed significant differences in disease rates between rural and urban Chinese populations, attributing these differences primarily to diet, with rural populations experiencing fewer health issues.
  2. Plant-Based Diet Benefits: A diet rich in whole, plant-based foods is associated with lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic conditions, leading to fewer medical problems and enhanced quality of life.
  3. Critique of Western Diet: The book critiques the typical Western diet, which is high in animal protein, processed foods, and refined sugars, linking it to higher incidences of chronic diseases and reduced quality of life.
  4. Reduction of Animal Protein: Reducing or eliminating animal protein intake can lead to significant health improvements and potentially reverse certain diseases, resulting in a healthier, more pain-free life.
  5. Whole Foods vs. Supplements: The authors emphasize consuming nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements, arguing that they provide superior health benefits due to their complex interactions, promoting better health and well-being.

Comparing the Works

While "How Not to Age," "Blue Zones: Live Longer and Better," and "The China Study" share common themes of promoting health and longevity through diet and lifestyle, they approach the topic from different perspectives.

Approach and Perspective:

  • How Not to Age: This book focuses on scientific and medical evidence and provides detailed, actionable advice on diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes that can enhance life quality and reduce pain and medical issues.
  • Blue Zones: This approach emphasizes sociocultural and environmental factors, using real-world examples from specific regions to illustrate healthy living and its impact on quality of life.
  • The China Study: This extensive epidemiological study links plant-based diets to lower chronic disease rates, critiquing the Western diet and promoting a pain-free, healthier life.

Practical Implementation:

  • How Not to Age: Offers detailed guidelines and targeted strategies for individuals to improve their health and reduce medical issues.
  • Blue Zones: Encourages integrating healthy habits naturally into daily life and creating supportive environments to enhance life quality and reduce pain.
  • The China Study: Advocates for significant dietary changes towards plant-based foods based on extensive research to improve health and quality of life.


These works underscore the importance of a plant-based diet, regular physical activity, stress management, strong social connections, and a supportive environment in promoting health and longevity. By drawing on scientific research, real-world examples, and comprehensive studies, they provide valuable insights and practical advice for extending our lives, enhancing our quality of life, and reducing pain and medical issues as we age.

Adopting even small, sustainable changes based on these principles can significantly impact your overall well-being and longevity. It’s about living longer and better and helping to ensure the added years are healthy, vibrant, and fulfilling.

Wishing you a long, healthy, and high-quality life,

Scott S. Van Den Berg

Scott Van Den Berg, CFP®, ChFC®, CEPA®, AIF®, CRPS®, CMFC®, AWMA®


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