We all know someone who's smoked their whole life and died of old age. Or perhaps it was someone who worked out routinely, ate all the right foods and died of cancer. These people are called outliers and a man named Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book about these people.
These people are the exception to every rule and when it comes to heart disease (the number one killer of Americans for nearly a century) there was a town in Pennsylvania that had defied all odds and earned the title of a true outlier.
Currently, 1 out of every 4 deaths in the U.S. is the result of heart disease. The losses are catastrophic. Cost alone this year will be 656 billion dollars. Factor in the premature loss of life, kids missing out on the knowledge of parents and grandparents, and worst of all, not having sufficient time to fulfill your life’s purpose.
The town is called Roseto. It’s made up almost entirely of Italians and is strikingly similar to most towns in America, but what was it that kept them from having heart disease? Doctors and scientists were baffled. It must be the water, their diet, their impeccable fitness? It was none of those. Back to the drawing board they went. Was it their occupations, their socioeconomic standing or their genetics? Nope, none of those either. The truth was, they drank copious amounts of wine, ate unhealthy foods, smoked stogies,and most were overweight.
The answer to this mystery was found in a place the doctors and scientists had failed to notice. Hiding behind all of the medical and environmental testing, right there in plain sight resided the basic structure of a family and a communal environment long forgotten in America. A time when families ate dinner together, talked over a game of cards, and routinely attended community events. Crime wasn't an issue in Roseto. Government assistance was unneeded and local businesses were exclusively patronized by the citizens of the town. In the end, it was what they didn't have that made them so unique: excessive financial, social, and mental stress. As a result, most of the people in the town suffered from far less chronic illness than those residing elsewhere in the country.
The truth is Fairborn, OH is not Roseto, PA. We have crime, poverty, and plenty of disease, but we could all use more family and community. More togetherness and less stress. There is a lot we can learn from science, our doctors and even in this case, the outliers. True health in order to live out our life's purpose must be our goal, and it is our duty to bring our family and community along for the ride.
Dr. Andrew R. Burns