Friday, March 13, 2015

Vog and Snow

Snow and clouds cover Mauna Kea
Like most of the world, the weather on the Big Island of Hawaii has been strange this year.  Two weeks ago the island was blanketed in vog from our constantly erupting volcano.  When the winds finally changed, it brought a thick blanket of clouds, rain and very cold temperatures

The heavy vog (volcanic smog) hung over us for over a week as a southern wind blew it north covering the west side of the island. When the vog gets thick, some people have a reaction in their lungs. The lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand from volcanoes, Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, is actually the longest word in the dictionary.  In our case, the vog lowers our energy and we feel like we are down with the flu.  Our only recourse is to stay inside and run the AC to get some of the sulfur dioxide out of our air. 

When the winds changed we got rain with record cold temperatures for March.  Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are covered in snow with high winds and freezing fog. The huge Thirty Meter Telescope, under construction on Mauna Kea, was delayed from the blizzard.

While we bundle up in temperatures in the low 60’s (F), the ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands is not cooling down.  The water is warmer than normal by up to 3.6 degrees. Last week NOAA Climate Prediction Center predicted a 60% chance of El Nino conditions because of the unusual warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.  The effects of the El Nino last year produced 20 named storms in the Eastern Pacific, the most since 1992.

An El Nino means our cold weather will likely be followed by a dry summer and another active hurricane season.  


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hawaii Avocados

Hawaii Avocado Tree
Hawaii has over 300 varieties of avocados. The variations of shape, size, and taste are amazing. The avocado skins vary from pliable to woody, smooth to rough, and are green-yellow, reddish-purple, purple, or black in color. Some taste buttery and others are fibrous.

The majority of avocados found outside of Hawaii are the black-skinned 'Haas' which originally came from the Guatemala. 'Haas' do not grow well in Hawaii so we have numerous other varieties available in stores and Famer’s markets around the islands.  Over half of the commercial avocado acreage in Hawaii are 'Sharwil', a Mexican and Guatemalan cross.  'Sharwil' have small seeds and greenish-yellow flesh with a rich, nutty flavor which many consider far superior to ‘Haas’.


'Greengold' and 'Murashige' are other green-skinned avocados commercially raised in Hawaii.  However, 'Sharwil'  is the only Hawaii grown avocado authorized for shipment to Alaska and the US mainland in compliance with USDA requirements.

We love the many varieties of avocados and are happy that they are also a great source Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E.   They also has Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), and Vitamin B3 (Niacin).  The avocado is a great source of fiber which makes it good for the digestive system and very filling.  Unlike other fruits which are mostly carbohydrates, avocados are mostly fat, with oleic acid which is a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid.


The plentiful supply of highly nutritious avocados in Hawaii is one of the reasons people in Hawaii are so Healthy and Happy

Friday, February 20, 2015

East Hawaii Blue Zones Project

East Hawaii, which includes Hilo, was selected as one of 3 communities in the state of Hawaii as a Blue Zones project by HSMA, Blue Zones LLC, and Healthways Inc.  The Island of Kauai has been a Blue Zones Project pilot since 2013.

According to Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, people in the Blue Zones he identified reach age 100 at 10 times the average rate.  Blue Zones LLC states that only 20% of how long a person lives is because of their genes; the other 80% is due to their lifestyle and environment. 

The Blue Zones project has best practices for communities to improve the lifestyle and environment for the residents. In Albert Lea, Minnesota, a Blue Zones project since 2009, the residents lost a total of 12,000 pounds, cut their health care costs, and added over 3 years to the residents’ average life expectancy.    

To be selected as a Blue Zones project, the community must have broad buy-in within the community including local leaders, schools, employers, restaurants, and grocery stores who agree to support the program.  In addition, at least 20% of the citizens must sign a personal pledge to take actions to improve their well-being which include eating wisely, moving naturally, making changes at home, connecting socially, and finding a purpose.

The personal pledges are based on 9 shared traits of the world’s longest lived people that Buettner identified.  Summaries of these traits listed on bluezones.com website include:

Move Naturally The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron or run marathons or join gyms. Their environments nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
Purpose Why do you wake up in the morning? Knowing your sense of purpose adds up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
Down Shift Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to reduce their stress.
80% Rule “Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawans say this mantra before meals as a reminder to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. That could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it.
Plant Slant The cornerstone of most centenarian diets are beans. They typically eat meat, mostly pork, only five times per month.
Wine  Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, especially if they share those drinks with friends.
Belong Attending faith-based services four times a month adds 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.
Loved Ones First Centenarians put their families first. They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby, commit to a life partner, and invest time and love in their children.
Right Tribe They world’s longest lived people chose or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors.


East Hawaii is the perfect place for a Blue Zone project as it already has many of the nine shared traits listed above. When we researched our book on “Why People in Hawaii are so Healthy and Happy” we found lots of reasons why people in Hawaii already live longer and have better health than the rest of the US.