Advertisement

Amish People Stay Healthy in Old Age. Here's Their Secret

Amish People Stay Healthy in Old Age. Here's Their Secret
From TIME - February 15, 2018

Many people think of the Amish as living without. These devout communities, predominantly located in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, go without cars, TVs, computers, phones or even the electricity needed to run so much of 21st century gadgetry. But what researchers who have studied them have found is what the Amish have a surplus of: good health in late life. The average American life expectancy is currently just under 79 years. Back in 1900, it was only 47, but for early20th century Amish it was already greater than 70. Over the decades, most Americans have caught up in overall life expectancy, but the Amish still have a significant edge in late-life health, with lower rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. So how do they do it?

Start with lifestyle. Amish communities are agrarian, with no modern farm equipment, meaning all the work has to be done by hand. In 2004, the American College of Sports Medicine fitted Amish volunteers with pedometers to determine how much physical activity they performed. The results were dramatic. Amish men took 18,425 steps a day and women 14,196 steps, compared with non-Amish people who are encouraged by doctors to shoot for at least 10,000 stepsand typically fail. Including other forms of manual laborlifting, chopping, sowing, plantingthe Amish are six times as active as a random sample of people from 12 countries.

One result of this is that only about 4% of Amish people are obese, compared with 36.5% of the overall U.S. population. Amish children are about one-third as likely as non-Amish to be obese, according to a 2012 study in PLOS One. This means 50% lower rates of Type 2 diabetes.

The near absence of tobacco in the Amish communitysome men do smoke cigarsresults in a 63% lower rate of tobacco-related cancers, according to a 2004 study of Ohios Amish population. The Amish also had rates of all cancers that were 40% lower than the rest of the Ohio population.

Cardiovascular disease is one area in which the Amish dont have an edge, with blood-pressure and heart-disease rates slightly higher than those of other populations. Some of this might be attributable to the Amish diet, which is heavy on pancakes, eggs and sausage for breakfast; and meat, potatoes, gravy and bread for dinner. Working the farm can burn off those calories, but all the fat and salt and carbs still take a toll.

Advertisement

Continue reading at TIME »