Our planet is becoming increasingly urbanized and industrialized, to the extent that it’s hard to imagine that there are still places in the world where people lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. But those people do exist.
Have you ever heard about the Tsimane tribe? An ancient Amazonian people residing in lowland Bolivia, the Tsimanes live a simple lifestyle, surviving on subsistence agriculture along with some hunting and fishing. Over the last 15 years, the tribe has drawn the attention of scientists and longevity experts all over the world, and for a good reason: they have the healthiest arteries of any population studied.
You read that right. Nine out of ten Tsimane people have clear arteries, and their risk of heart disease is practically non-existent. They maintain incredibly good health well into their old age, with two-thirds of their senior population over 75 being completely free of any heart risk. One 80-year-old Tsimane had arteries similar to the arteries of a 50-year-old American. (You can easily reduce the risk of heart disease.)
What’s their secret? While the contemporary western lifestyle promotes heart disease and atherosclerosis, the hunter-gatherer way of living seems to be the ultimate recipe for cardiovascular health. The Tsimane South Americans spend most of their day farming, fishing, hunting, and gathering fruits and nuts.
As heart disease is the number one killer in the world, it’s not surprising that the tribe has attracted so much attention from the global medical community. (The hidden culprit that is weakening your arteries.) The researchers studied different aspects of their lifestyle in order to understand what exactly these people do that makes them so healthy and fit. Based on their analysis, they have come up with simple guidelines mirroring the Tsimane lifestyle that can effectively reduce the risk of heart disease:
1. Men should walk 17,000 steps a day, and women 16,000 steps.
2. The diet should consist primarily of non-processed carbohydrates rich in fiber (for example, corn, potatoes, nuts, fruit, rice).
3. Total fat intake should not exceed 38g a day.
4. Saturated fat intake should not exceed 11g a day.
5. Men should engage in some sort of physical activity for seven hours a day, and women for six hours.
6. Only 10 percent of the day should be spent completely inactive.
7. Lean meat and fish should be consumed, but in moderation.
8. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation, and no smoking.
9. Elderly people should remain active, walking 15,000 steps a day.
10. A socially active lifestyle and positive attitude benefits the heart too.
These simple traits of the Tsimane lifestyle have been proven to prevent hardening of the arteries.
Of course, we cannot reverse the centuries of industrialization and the contemporary way of living. It also doesn’t seem possible to adopt all of these guidelines exactly. But even somewhat mimicking what the Tsimane do on a daily basis can greatly benefit your heart, and Western medicine can make up for the rest. It all boils down to an active lifestyle, not smoking, and a diet low in fats and rich in non-processed carbs, fiber, and fish. Changing up your routine by trying to be just a bit more like the Tsimane people can help protect your heart and improve your overall health for the years to come.
Related: Can you reverse heart disease?