What is the secret to living a long and healthy life? There are five geographic areas in the world with the highest life expectancy; Research carried out by Dan Buettner identified the nine commonalities the oldest people in these areas share to increase their wellness and longevity. Which countries have got it right? Let’s look at the Blue Zones.
These areas are:
- Okinawa in Japan
- Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica)
- Ogliastra in Sardinia (Italy)
- Icaria in Greece
- The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California (USA)
As you can see in the diagram in the introduction, the Blue Zones have nine commonalities within four categories:
The four categories are:
- Positive Outlook
- Eat well and wisely
- And Connection
Despite cultural differences, the commonalities between each blue zone are:
Life Purpose: People in Blue Zones live with and wake up every day with purpose. Knowing your purpose in life can gain you an extra seven years!
Eat Earlier in the Day: People in Blue Zones don’t eat large meals before bedtime. Instead, they eat their smallest meal late afternoon and don’t eat after. And interestingly, they stop eating when they are 80% full.
Strong Community: Almost all of the people in Blue Zones that have reached the age of 100 reports being part of some faith-based community. Attending four faith-based events in a month can earn you 4 to 14 years.
Good Relationships: Family comes first for Blue Zone people. It is not uncommon for many generations to live together or close by. Committing to a spouse or life partner can add an extra three years. And quality time with their children is standard and cross-generational.
Natural Movement: Movement is important for overall health. Blue Zones don’t do the gym. Exercise is incorporated naturally. Movement is part of and built into their everyday lives. They do housework, garden, walk to friends and neighbours, and climb the stairs. They are constantly in motion.
Relaxation: Stress contributes to chronic illness and high cortisol levels. Blue Zones don’t suffer from chronic stress. They have daily rituals to relax and release the day’s stress, prayer, and time in the community and with family and a glass of wine. Eat Lots of Plants The typical diet in the Blue Zones is 95% plant-based, though not stringently vegetarian; on average, meat is consumed five times a month, and their portions are only 3 to 4 ounces in size. Their diet is mainly Vegetables, Legumes, Whole grains, Nuts and some fish.
Wine: People in Blue Zones (except for the Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California) drink wine (1-2 glasses) daily.
Find Their “Tribe” – People in Blue Zones live in communities. Communities of people who choose healthy lifestyles. Researchers find that lifestyle choice is contagious.
Blue Zones smoke little, don’t overconsume alcohol, and have a low body mass index (BMI). They have low blood pressure and a low heart rate. They enjoy Slow food, and they eat whole foods. They live physical activity lives. They build their lives around committed relationships and thrive on social connections and relationships. They are conscientious about diet and prefer to consume plants over animals. They live in warm climates and have developed a low disease-related risk profile.
Blue Zones live in “moderation.” with a balanced approach to life. Almost like people lived in bi-gone times. Blue Zoners don’t just live longer, but they live healthily, well lives.