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Community, Connection, and Health with Cliff Syner, PA-C

Community, Connection, and Health

Are you ready to take charge of your health? Schedule your free 20-minute discovery call with our New Patient Coordinator to see how you can become a patient at MaxWell Clinic and start your healing journey today.

There is no doubt that we struggle and typically burn out when trying to change and better our health on our own. During this webinar, I’ll show you why community is THE driving force to create health on a sustainable level.

Watch the video on community, connection & health. 

We’ll take a look at “Blue Zones”, communities around the world that live the healthiest and longest lives. By the end of our time together, you’ll be ready to apply their practices in your own community and create health for you and those around you.

Blue Zones

The human body is an intricate web of interdependent systems, each playing a vital role in our overall health and well-being. However, there’s a fundamental factor that often goes overlooked in our pursuit of health: the power of community and its profound impact on our physical and mental well-being.

Imagine a place where people not only live long lives but also live them in good health. These places exist and are known as “Blue Zones.” These are regions around the world where people enjoy exceptionally long and healthy lives, often surpassing the average life expectancy. What’s fascinating is that it’s not just one aspect of their lifestyle that contributes to their longevity—it’s their sense of community and the way they live within it.

Understanding Allostatic Load

Before delving into the secrets of Blue Zones, it’s crucial to grasp the concept of allostatic load. Allostatic load, often referred to as stress, encompasses both external stressors and internal stressors like inflammation. External stressors may include the demands of work, family, or even global events, while internal stressors manifest as conditions like elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, and inflammation markers in our bodies.

The Impact of Community on Health

Research conducted at Vanderbilt University explored the relationship between regular church attendance and allostatic load. The results were compelling, highlighting that regular participation in a community of faith had a significant impact on individuals’ health. This suggests that being part of a community, sharing common values and practices, can lead to improved physical well-being.

But what if you’re not religious? The underlying principle here is not limited to church attendance. It’s about being part of a supportive community that shares similar health-conscious values and practices.

Blue Zones Unveiled

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the renowned Blue Zones around the world.

Sardinia, Italy: In Sardinia, where people are known for their longevity, families live together as shepherds, tending to their animals and maintaining an active lifestyle. Their diet primarily consists of cheese, bread, and wine, but it’s the quality and preparation of these foods that matter. They also grow their own vegetables and raise lamb. The key takeaway here is that they embrace a simple, community-focused way of life.

Ikaria, Greece: The Mediterranean diet shines in Ikaria, where residents enjoy long and healthy lives. But it’s not just about the food; it’s the sense of community and togetherness that makes a difference. The residents of Ikaria have a concept called “ikigai,” which means finding a purpose in life. It encompasses what you love, what the world needs, what you’re good at, and what provides you with resources. This sense of purpose, combined with communal living, contributes to their exceptional health.

Okinawa, Japan: On this island, known for its centenarians, people live with a strong sense of purpose. They prioritize health due to their roles as elite warriors, but their community support system ensures they all stay on track. The emphasis on regular physical activity, the right diet, and rest results in a high quality of life for the people of Okinawa.

Loma Linda, California: Loma Linda is a unique Blue Zone located in the United States. It’s home to a community of Seventh-day Adventists who follow a predominantly plant-based diet. Their faith plays a significant role in their lifestyle, emphasizing healthful living. Regular church attendance and a weekly day of rest contribute to their longevity and well-being.

Nicoya, Costa Rica: In Nicoya, family is paramount. Despite occasional marital issues, they prioritize keeping families together. Their strong sense of community and understanding of an individual’s worth contribute to their harmonious way of life. Pura vida, the Costa Rican saying for “simple life,” is an embodiment of their mindset.

Creating Healthful Communities Where You Are

You might be wondering, “Do I need to move to a Blue Zone to enjoy these health benefits?” The answer is no. The principles that make Blue Zones so special can be implemented right where you are.

    1. Understand Your Community: Start by understanding the community you’re part of. Recognize that change takes time, and not everyone may be open to it. Approach it with patience and empathy.
    2. Share Knowledge and Wisdom: If you’ve embraced a health-conscious lifestyle, share your knowledge and experiences with others. Be a source of inspiration and support. Sometimes, a simple conversation can spark a positive change in someone’s life.
    3. Build a Like-Minded Community: Seek out individuals who share your health-focused values and create a supportive community. You don’t need to move; you can build a health-conscious network right where you are.
    4. Live Healthily Together: Encourage movement, nutritious eating, and rest within your community. Even small changes can lead to significant improvements in well-being.

In conclusion, while the Blue Zones offer remarkable insights into healthy living, the essence of their success lies in community. Our communities have the power to shape our health and longevity. By embracing these principles and creating healthful communities where we are, we can all aspire to lead longer, healthier lives together.

This blog explores the powerful impact of community on health and draws inspiration from Blue Zones around the world. It emphasizes the importance of understanding and building health-conscious communities right where you are.

Are you ready to take charge of your health? Schedule your free 20-minute discovery call with our New Patient Coordinator to see how you can become a patient at MaxWell Clinic and start your healing journey today.

hi good afternoon
welcome to another maxwell care group visit i am cliff seiner i’m one of the pas with the maxwell clinic
and i’m really looking forward to to being able to talk with you guys today
i’ve enjoyed these group visits hearing from dr haasey and dr ferris and dr woods and i’m just thankful that i get
to be a part of this team and get to share on a topic that i am that i am so passionate about
so we’ll be talking today about community connection and health
if you have any questions you can type those into the question section here in
the group visit and then at the end of the visit then i’ll be answering those questions
so there are five fundamentals that we talk about in functional medicine
so those five fundamentals are nutrition which if you’re a patient of the maxwell
clinic you’ve heard plenty about stress also something that we think is very very important
movement which includes exercise but is not just exercise rest
and relationship and what we know through research
what we have seen and experienced in our own lives what we have seen in the lives of the
patients that we treat is that none of those other fundamentals
can reach their their
their potential if relationship is not an important piece of the treatment plan
so today we will be talking about relationships specifically from the aspect of community
we have been created to thrive within community with each other and with our
environment there’s no way to ignore the connection
between community and health and still reach wellness
so in my own life when i think back about how community has
impacted my health and how my health has impacted my community around me
i i think back to when i was a small child and i was born
and lived my early years in uh in appalachia in the mountains of west virginia
and if you know anything about that area of the country if you know anything at all you probably
know that it’s not known for for its health and community there is not focused on
health typically it is definitely focused on on loving your neighbor on caring for those around
you it’s deeply known for its hospitality but it’s also known for chronic disease
and i can tell you that if you wanted to live a healthy life um growing up there it would be
difficult because there’s always family gatherings and those family gatherings always
include lots of sweet tea and barbecue and cakes and pies and cookies and
pepperoni rolls for one of my favorite and so it’s just not a it’s not a place
that places a high value on nutrition
and and it hurts i mean it does make a difference there we see a lot of chronic disease and reversing that
one patient at a time without helping to change the community is
extremely difficult and then i also think back to my time
as a soldier in special operations and seeing those soldiers that i was honored
to work with some of the most elite warriors in the world
they strove towards health and they um their jobs demanded it
and they lived it out and so it was almost difficult to not be healthy in that environment
because exercise training for the mission the way we ate the way we hydrated the way we kept each
other accountable for those things knowing that your very lives depend upon it it pushes you to be your very best
and so in looking at these two [Music] aspects of my life
and communities in which i’ve seen very differing views on health
it made me it made me think about that ponder that especially as i got into medicine
on the on the outside in the civilian world as we call it right after i got out of the army in 2014
and i learned something about research that had been done all around the world
through something called the blue zones and this was national geographic that sent explorers all over the world
looking for the healthiest people looking for people who tended to live
the longest now it’s not only about living long right like that’s not that’s not our
goal our goal is to live healthy
and then hopefully that will that will correlate into length of living
so they went all around the world and they looked at all of these different communities and they studied them
and five specific communities really stood out and those communities are sardinia italy
acario greece okinawa japan loma linda california
and the koya costa rica so at first glance you might think well
all of these places are warm or all of these places are near the
equator or they’re all near the water so i bet they eat a lot of fish and in a lot of these places they do eat fish but
not all of them it’s really interesting that it wasn’t food
by itself that made the biggest difference because as we’ll discuss some of these places
didn’t put a big focus on nutrition it wasn’t just
movement or exercise even though exercise and movement is a common thread
it’s not across the board a perfect standard
it’s not just sleep or rest or as you’ll hear about
in one of these groups that is dedicated to taking one day off every single week
it’s not only about rest even though rest is an important component of all of
these structures of all of these communities
but what really makes the difference in all of these communities and in other communities that have been studied
around the world is the health of the community
of the culture that they live in that’s what makes the biggest difference
so in sardinia italy what they’ve noticed is that the the
families and the groups of families they they live together as shepherds and they tend to their animals and they
take their animals from the plains up into the mountains and then they bring them home again lots
of movement lots of walking they eat a diet interestingly of mostly
cheese bread and wine right how’s that sound for for a health food
prescription so now when i say cheese i don’t want you
to think about the processed cheese that we see laying in uh in our grocery stores because this is not the same
thing this is sheep cheese usually aged with their enzymes and
bacteria present so a little different product than what we would normally find
the bread was typically sourdough and the wine was made from very specific
grapes using a fermenting process that has been going on for at least a thousand years
so even though it seems like we could easily reproduce that you know
cheese bread and wine or maybe many of us already do it is specific jesus specific bread and
specific wine and they also grow a lot of their own vegetables which is a big part of that
and eat a lot of lamb you know being shepherds i think that makes sense although me and my wife had a sheep farm
and we found it very difficult to eat the lamb that we grew but i guess if you’ve been doing it for a long time
that would make it a lot easier so we see that in sardinia in aquaria greece
this is where the mediterranean diet shines this is the epitome
if you want to learn about what the mediterranean diet looks like or if you
read all of the studies that have been done around health and the mediterranean diet
then i carry a grease would be the shining star of what that would look
like but they’re not doing it in
isolation they do it as a community how many of us have decided you know
what i’m going to change the way i eat i’m going to eat healthy and i’m going to base it on research and i’m going to
have all kinds of resources and i’m going to set up food plants and i’m going to go to the grocery store and i’m
going to pre-cook my food for the week i’m going to have everything i need lined out
and we can do those things but the one thing that will usually
knock us off of that path towards wellness and healthy eating
is community when others around us are not eating and living in the same
way it becomes very difficult to continue that all by yourself
and in this small community in greece that’s not a problem it would be strange
or odd for them to eat fast food whereas for us it may be strange or odd
to eat sardines wrapped in spinach i don’t know it’s a delicious snack but
you can see where some people would think that that’s that that’s strange or different
so for them it’s a normal way of eating it’s part of their community
so then we have okinawa in okinawa an island on the southern end
of japan there’s been there’s been a lot of upheaval on that island over the last
hundred years i remember hearing one story of a centurion as a lady who had lived to be
over a hundred and she recalled her time during world war ii
and how for at least two years she ate almost nothing
but purple sweet potatoes because of the war-torn devastation of
their country there was nothing else available
also in okinawa which is an island and so you think they have lots of fish and they do
but they also eat pork something that often we say is horrible a food that we should stay away from
but the way they eat their pork is a little different than us so usually each family
would have their own pig and right around new year’s that pig would be slaughtered
just like other pigs were being slaughtered in that whole community at the same time and then that one pig would last them
the entire year and they would share it with their community it would be it would be for
special events or community gatherings in okinawa they also have an idea called
ikigai ikigai it’s a strange name right but what does it mean it means a purpose of
living sometimes in the maxwell clinic you’ll hear it said
what do you want your health for what is your
reason for being and this is more than what we
usually think about in western culture in western culture we may say things
like well my reason for being is my job whatever my job is right we meet each other on the street and we say what
do you do right that’s almost the most important thing i mean we may ask names first but we’re really interested in
what does this new person that i’m eating what do they do so for the japanese though
this encompasses so much more this is what do you love
what does the world need what are you good at
and what can provide you resources so you could basically you could take
each one of those things what do you love what does the world need what are you good at
and what gives you resources and you can make circles out of each of these and where those circles all intersect
that is your purpose for living and in their culture when they wake up
in the morning that thought is on their mind
when they go out into their day that purpose is on their mind
when they sit down for meals when they relax when they’re fishing when they’re gathering when they’re growing crops
that purpose is on their mind they also have of an another interesting
aspect of living in community and it’s called moai
and the idea of moai is that you would form friendships
but they’re more than friendships you would also work with these individuals you would gossip and hang out and spend
time with these individuals and share meals and families with these individuals and these groups are set at a very young
age as babies as babies they begin to interact with
the people who will be their closest core and inner circle
as they grow older they will go to school with these individuals they will share life with these
individuals this group this small community as they age
will begin to develop their own purpose of life together in
what this group is for and some of these groups have been known to be together for over 90
years and then we look at loma linda
so loma linda is in california and i know that it might surprise many of you
it certainly surprised me to think that we would have a blue zone here in the united states and to think about what is
it that actually brings loma linda into this very small fraternity of
communities who tend to live the longest and live the healthiest
so in loma linda they tend to eat a plant-based diet
and even though what’s interesting is in this community it’s a community of seventh-day adventists so they’re all
very faithful they have a school there university there and so they do a lot of
education education is very important there and even though the plant-based diet is
the norm it seems like from studies that have been done those that add a little bit of
fish to their diet throughout the week tend to actually live a little bit longer
so though this is a again this is a culture though of health this is
actually part of their faith is eating according to how they feel
like god has called them to live and they use a lot of the biblical
specifically in the old testament a lot of the biblical dietary laws they use as their standard not exactly but
but so with you know sort of within that context and they have truly prioritized that now
not only have they prioritized food and nutrition but they have prioritized rest
you see the in the old testament we we read about the sabbath and so you know a lot of christian
traditions um have interpreted that differently but for this group they have decided that you know that that day is
saturday that is that one day of the week and they are going to take it extremely seriously
i think that’s interesting because in our western culture production is the most important thing
you know when you see a friend you haven’t seen in a while you may say something like hey man how you been
and then the usual response would be something like yeah it’s been really busy it’s just
i just need a break and there’s almost a sense of pride that we can get from saying that right that
we we know we filled every single second with something important
so for a community to step outside of that could you imagine could you imagine
running into an old friend and say hey how have you been how things go on and you’d be like oh man
i just cleared my calendar and i’ve just been really relaxing just contemplating a lot
just considering what’s going on in the world and what i can do to make an impact
it almost sounds weird to say right but we do know that rest is important
rest is crucial to our ability to grow towards wellness
i can’t even count the number of patients that i’ve seen and even experienced in my own life this
idea of needing to exercise harder right or work harder or produce more
and how that actually leads to us producing less or being less strong it’s
well known in the fitness world that in order to get stronger you have to take time to rest
you have to recover well and we now have all kinds of cool gadgets to help us figure that out heart
rate variability is one of my favorite because looking at heart rate variability every day you can get a
clear sense of how well you’re recovering you know it may seem strange that we
need something like that to help us understand when to rest but be what it may i’m thankful that we
have that technology so there was actually a study done in
vanderbilt in 2017 that looked at
faith and in church attendance and allostatic load
so what’s interesting is well maybe i should explain allostatic blood first
so sometimes allostatic load is known as stress right this is the stress and when we
think about stress we think about it from the outside right so we think about um what are people doing to me what are
the demands that are placed upon me by my job by my family by the goals that i hope to accomplish
by maybe the political environment or maybe wars that are going on around the world
or what we’re doing to impact those things so those things certainly can cause stress and they are part of allostatic
load but we also have this stress that comes from within and a lot of times we will call that
inflammation so we look at things like elevated small ldl cholesterol and the plaque that it
can cause that leads to inflammation in our arteries eventually breaks off and becomes a heart attack or elevated blood
pressure or c-reactive protein or homocysteine these are just some of the labs that we
use to measure inflammation those things are also part of our
allostatic load and in this study at vanderbilt they looked at all of those things to
determine how um church attendance but not just attending but regular church attendance
and part of that corporate body of worship how that impacted their health
and it was interesting to note that it did make an impact right like it made
a huge impact that there is just no question that
gathering regularly for a time of worship with a group of fellow believers
had an absolutely huge impact on our health and helped people either
grow towards wellness or stay well if they were already there
and of course this makes sense right if we’ve been designed for community and if we could live in a community so you can
start to see the power that this could have if that local body if that local
worship group that you belong to if they also place
a priority on how we live within the environment on eating and living the way we’ve been
created on how we care for our environment and how we steward the
things that we’ve been gifted to just like the shepherds in sardinia
or the farmers in greece if we if we
live into those things as part of the created order then of course we’re going to be healthy
so the last spot that is known as a blue zone is nikoia
so nikoia is in costa rica and here they have a saying and you may
have heard it if you’ve ever been to to um to costa rica pura vida and it means simple life
so in nicoya you see um family is of the utmost importance
divorce is rare here even though um i think this distance that can be a
little confusing so family is very important divorce is rare
but it doesn’t mean that there’s not marital issues it is sort of a strange thing and i’m not encouraging i am not
encouraging infidelity here but it’s strange that in costa rica that they tend to have high rates of of
infidelity but low divorce rates
and it’s not that they live in anger but they they have a sense and it’s really hard to explain this unless
you’ve actually been there and sort of um been in these communities they have a sense of
understanding the worth of an individual for who they are and loving them where they are
and recognizing that helping to keep a family together
is going to be far more important than just trying to break away from that
family for your own benefit and so they go through some tremendously
hard times but what is so beautiful is that the love that they still have and that they
still share there so it’s this idea of accepting people
for who they are for where they are that helps make this blue zone so
incredibly special when me and my wife visited there a few years ago we were struck by the
hospitality there we went with some friends of ours who had been born and raised there in nicoya
but had moved to hawaii and that’s where we met them like i said this was a few years ago
and um you know their their families they just brought us in
uh my friend’s mom just gave us her bedroom and uh showed us where the food
was and um and was up early preparing meals and with enthusiasm this is not a
hospitality that sort of grates at you that’s frustrating that you would have to have strangers in your home but one
that truly sees it as a special opportunity and it’s a it’s a mindset that makes a
difference and for them it’s that mindset that is pura vida
that is that simple life and it’s us
seeking to live into that simple life they can make all the difference in the world
an example that i i thought of concerning this in costa rica
was the the road workers so you know in most countries you’re going to have people whose job it is to
clean the the sides of the roads to keep the weeds down to keep things you know from from coming into the road and
causing hazards and costa rica is no different so i remember one morning we were headed down
to the beach from the mountains and we passed a group of men who were out there and they were tending to
tending to this area along the road and they just had machetes right so immediately i was hit by
there’s no gas powered equipment right it was all machetes and handheld manual labor
and so right there we know that movement is going to be increased right this is going to be a lot harder work than for
us who would typically use you know weed eaters or other other gas powered equipment now it’s interesting that it’s
not because they’re not choosing these things they’re not choosing this manual labor because they um
because they think that would be better for you they’re doing it because the price of gasoline is very very expensive
so those are other things to consider in your community in in your relationships and in how you live in
your community is what things can you do that might be a little more difficult
uh where you can sort of build resistance into your life so they’re working and they’re working
very hard and they’re clearing off this hillside then we came back through i think it was probably about one o’clock we were
headed back up and um we were going to go get something to eat and
they were all like laying underneath of this large mango tree and some of them
were throwing their machetes up into the mango tree to get the mangoes to fall out and that was their lunch for today
they didn’t see any other food they all had big big gallons of water and they were eating
mangoes and then on the way back down after we had finished eating our lunch we seen
that they were all just taking a nap and by this time it was about two o’clock in the afternoon so they work they have a the culture of
a really hard labor hard work outside and then being able to take advantage of
what’s growing around us so for us in the us especially here in middle tennessee it might be a little
bit difficult to have food that grows for us all year round right but it’s that idea of eating local
healthy food and then they would enjoy the afternoon in slumber sleeping resting the hot
hours of the day away and then working as it as it cools down as the afternoon wings on
so that is this this clear example of kind of a simple way of
living so where does this leave us must we all
now move to a blue zone or become special operations warriors i mean we
could all move to a blue zone right i mean i think that would be fun but you know we’re we’re in middle tennessee for
a reason and uh and i think that we’re we’re called here so that we should figure out how to make it work
we can build those communities right here there are actually communities in the
u.s who have already done that some as far north as minnesota who have made a
decision that their communities are going to be based around the ideals of these blue zones and what is so cool is
the way that they’re markers of mortality and their chronic disease comes down
their allostatic load decreases
we have the power to do that right here where we live
so the first thing we have to do is understand the community that we live in
understand that the community that most of us are living in right now is not all
that open to change and that’s okay it doesn’t mean that we need to rage against it in some sort of
angry you know we know how you should eat and you should eat that way too sort of a
way but rather we meet people where they are understanding the stressors that they
have on their life and we show them a different way we be a healing presence for
them because of the healing that has occurred in us
that’s where we start to make the change in our community that is how we grow healthy communities
we do it by loving people right where they are one person at a time
which is exactly what we are striving to do here at the maxwell clinic
maximize wellness one unique person at a time
and as we continue to do that we start to build a critical mass a critical mass of like-minded people
who long to see a difference in their community
and that is exactly what i would encourage you to do i would encourage you to take the knowledge and the wisdom
that you gain by being a patient at the maxwell clinic and share that knowledge
share that knowledge in love share it in kindness but do share it
look up things like the blue zones look at ways that we can change our
communities for the better and by taking these principles we have the power to make dramatic to
make a dramatic difference in our community
well thank you for being with me today uh this has been a lot of fun as you can see i’m very
passionate about community i think that this is where change happens right we
create health by first looking in and then sharing that health outward
so i would encourage you to keep doing that if you have any questions or any ideas i would love to hear those
i look forward to seeing you guys in the exam room and then hopefully for another one of these group visits
let’s check i don’t think we have any questions but i’m going to take a look here
nope it doesn’t look like any showed up so it was a pleasure being with you guys
i hope you have a wonderful day

This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website or in any linked materials. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone immediately.

Cliff Syner, PA-C

Cliff Syner, PA-C, has a passion for helping others heal. While serving in the U.S. Army, he cared for trauma patients around the world as a special operations flight medic.