Created by Cardiologists
Trusted by Doctors

There are no items in your bag

Product added to shopping cart

Kathleen’s and Leonard’s Secrets to Longevity

key with longevity written on itDr. Emilio Ros, MD, PhD, is a brilliant endocrinologist/researcher who lives and practices in Barcelona, Spain. We have become friends while working together on various nutrition-related endeavors for the American College of Cardiology.
Emilio grew up in Spain on the Mediterranean coast eating a diet naturally rich in nuts and extra-virgin olive oil. He also designed and carried out the PREDIMED Trial—widely considered perhaps the most important diet study ever done.
The other diet expert who I consider my most trusted source for navigating the often-confusing world of nutrition is my wife, Joan O’Keefe. Like nearly all physicians, I received no education about nutrition in medical school or during my training to be a cardiologist.
Joan is a registered dietitian who taught me most of what I know about nutrition, which is just one of countless reasons why marrying her was the best thing that ever happened to me. Like Emilio, Joan has remarkable instincts about nutrition that run much deeper than her formal education. She grew up as an only child of Leonard and Kathleen, eating what in essence was a traditional Mediterranean diet.
Leonard was born in Hawaii in 1911 to Portuguese immigrants. He was a child of nature—always outside playing barefoot in the sand (he received his first pair of shoes when he was 10 years old). For after-school snacks he and his friends would pick fruit and dive for abalone from the beaches of Waikiki on the Pacific Ocean.
When he graduated from high school, he moved to the mainland where he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco. That’s where he met Kathleen. The two of them settled down and built a suburban home in Walnut Creek, where Leonard turned their yard into an orchard/garden. Leonard’s favorite pastime was gardening, and he supplied their little family with a year-round bounty of vegetables, fruits, berries, and nuts.
When I asked Joan what he planted and harvested, she closed her eyes and visualized her childhood yard. “We had a huge vegetable garden, multiple berry bushes, two cherry trees, an apple tree, apricot tree, plum tree, lemon tree, persimmon tree, guava tree, walnut tree, and an almond tree.”
When Kathleen was a young woman, a doctor mistakenly diagnosed her with diabetes. Subsequent tests reassured her that she was not diabetic, but Kathleen took that scare as a warning and decided she would take control of her future health by learning everything she could about nutrition. Kathleen never went to college, but she was a smart woman who became a self-taught authority on the topic of nutrition. While Joan was growing up, she recalls often seeing her mother sitting cross-legged on her bed surrounded by books and articles, earnestly poring over all the information she could find on diet and health.
Leonard worked on the Fisherman’s Wharf and would often bring home fresh seafood/fish as the day’s catch was being unloaded from the boats. Every day, Kathleen would make a large salad of greens dressed with generous amounts of extra-virgin olive oil and red-wine vinegar. She steamed vegetables and served only whole natural fresh foods, salted to taste.
They never had desert, but they had happy hour every night before dinner, during which they would often socialize with neighbors on the back patio. They virtually NEVER went out to restaurants, and when they finished dinner at about 6:30 p.m., they NEVER ate anything else.
Kathleen and Leonard would go to bed early and fast 13 or 14 hours every night, then awaken early the next morning. They were joyful, active, mentally sharp folks with very good general health until they died of old age rather suddenly - Leonard at 94, and Kathleen at 99.
Kathleen and Leonard developed a nearly ideal diet/lifestyle and followed this for almost a century. Meanwhile the “U.S. diet experts” were advising Americans to avoid all dietary fat and instead eat 11 daily servings of bread and other carbs—a diet almost guaranteed to increase belly fat and raise the risk of diabetes.
Fast forward to Joan. Well, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Joan’s unerring intuition on diet and lifestyle arose organically during the first 19 years of her life while she lived with Kathleen and Leonard.
Luckily for us, our four children and I were indoctrinated into that diet and lifestyle, which not coincidentally is quite similar to the traditional diet followed by peasants living on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Much like Leonard, they derived most of their food from their gardens, orchards, vineyards, and the ocean.
Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies too; though we purchase our peasant Mediterranean food at the supermarket. Joan prepares meals almost exactly like Kathleen taught her, and I have stopped even suggesting we go out for dinner—Joan’s a homebody.
As Emilio will enthusiastically tell you, the traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle is a delicious way to eat and an enjoyable way to live. Give it a try—pretend you’re a Mediterranean peasant—transported to 21st century America.

In Good Health,

James O'Keefe, MD, FACC