Why Do People in the Blue Zones Live Longer?
Many people have heard about the Blue Zones. They are areas of the world where people live to be 100 years old at ten times greater the rate than the average population. Author and researcher Dan Buettner has been traveling the globe since the 1990s exploring where people live the healthiest, longest lives and what behaviors they have that might allow others to do the same.
Buettner worked with demographers and scientists from the National Institute on Aging and National Geographic to identify four distinct Blue Zones. They are: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.
In identifying these locations, they uncovered some very interesting statistics:
- Men in Sardinia reach the age of 100 in higher numbers than anywhere else on earth.
- Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California live from 9 – 11 years longer than their peers in other areas of the country.
- Middle-aged residents of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica have four times greater chance of reaching the age of 90 than a person living in the United States.
- People who reside in Okinawa have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world.
9 Lessons Learned from the Blue Zones
The good news is that longevity isn’t just the result of strong genes. While genetics do play a role, most researchers believe only about 25% of longevity is tied to your family history. What may help you beat the odds are the lessons researchers learned from observing people in the Blue Zones. They include:
- Move Naturally: You don’t need to be a marathon runner to live longer. People in the identified areas stay active in more natural ways including gardening, hiking, biking, swimming and more. The key is to engage in these activities on a regular basis.
- Hara Hachi Bu: People in the U.S. may benefit from employing this practice more than in many other countries. It means to eat only until you are no longer hungry. To stop before you actually feel full. Not a common practice in our culture. There is a significant calorie gap between the time when you are no longer hungry and when you are full. It seems to make a difference in maintaining a healthy weight.
- Plant-based Diet: Adopting a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, beans, fruits, olive oil, whole grains and nuts makes a difference. People in the Blue Zones eat nuts two to four times each week.
- Red Wine: A daily glass of red wine is also believed to help increase longevity. Researchers believe it is because it helps combat both stress and chronic inflammation in the body.
- Live with Purpose: People who have clear goals in life tend to live longer. Living with purpose seems to decrease stress and ward off illness.
- Down Shift: Chronic stress creates inflammation in the body. That inflammation can lead the body to turn on itself. Slowing down can aid in preventing heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and more.
- Have Faith: People who devote attention to their spiritual side have lower incidences of depression, cardiovascular diseases, chronic illness and suicide. Their body’s natural immunity seems to work better.
- Family First: Staying connected and engaged with family is also a priority in Blue Zones. Loving, nurturing relationships appear to lead to happier, healthier lifestyles.
- The Right Tribe: Surrounding yourself with healthy, positive people also has a positive impact on longevity. Adopting and maintaining healthy habits is easier when you are surrounded by people who share your commitment.