Living

The Not So Secrets of the Blue Zones and Why They Have the Highest Life Expectancy.

I wanna live forever! No I don’t actually but the Blue Zones are writing the book about living RIGHT. These “magical” zones are areas of the globe where people are living healthier happier longer lives and the rest of the world is asking why and how can I? Their secret is in the most obvious of reasons.

What are the Blue Zones?

In 2005 researcher, explorer and author Dan Buettner set out to find the areas of the world where people live the longest. After a few years traveling he was able to classify 5 regions who beat out the rest of the world in longevity. These regions are places where old age and quality of life are in fact synonymous. Let’s learn:

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Sardinia, Italy: Mountain villages, in particular a village called Seulo actually hold the record for “the place where people live the longest in the world”.

Okinawa, Japan: The Japanese are the best- we all know it. This geographic location has been the most popular for some time producing many centenarians of the world. There are significantly lower rates of cancer, dementia, and heart disease.

*Shout out: Okinawan women live longer than any other women on the planet! 

…That’s where I will be retiring:)

Icaria, Greece: With the world’s highest concentration of centenarian men this island is a model for lifestyle. On this island nearly 1 out of 3 people live well into their 90’s. They also have 50% lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia.

Nicola Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Costa Rican phrase “Pura Vida” or pure life is definitely prominent in this beachy paradise as many of their residents live to 100 years of age. They actually hold the second highest concentration of male centenarians.

Loma Linda, California: And it’s not the hippies! More specifically the Seventh-day Adventists who focus on strong family connections, health and wellbeing and the very trendy, in their case biblical vegetarianism also make the list of living a longer healthier lifestyle (Not all are vegetarians though). They actually live 10 years longer than the average American!

What is the Average Life Expectancy of Blue Zones?

In these extraordinary regions the average life expectancy reaches well into the 90’s with many seeing 100 years of age. It’s not just about age here but about quality of life and when it comes to quality of life they are killin…I mean LIVING it!

blue zones

Blue zones not only show us cultures of people who live the longest but also those who were able to grow old without health problems like cancer, diabetes, dementia, obesity, or heart disease.

 

What are Blue Zones Doing That We Aren’t?

 

FOOD:

blue zones

Ikara, Greece: Their diet is heavy in vegetables and healthy fats containing smaller amounts of dairy and meat products. Ikara is also an island so it’s safe to safe healthy fresh fish is a staple here.

Okinawa, Japan: Following a largely plant-based diet that is rich in nutrient dense vegetables like the Okinawan sweet potatoes, fermented soy products (not like the over-processed American kind) and miso support lower rates of breast cancer here.

Loma Linda, California: Welp, back to vegetable based diets. The Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarians who enjoy whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fruit.  They drink a ton of water and practice moderation by eating a light dinner. Keeping active is also part of their healthy lifestyle.

Nicola Peninsula, Costa Rica: With a diet rich in light tropical foods such as fish, fruit and legumes it’s no accident this group is likely to live to 100 years old. Little to no processed foods are consumed (can we see the importance of this yet). They also drink plenty of calcium and magnesium rich water.

Sardinia, Italy: Following a largely plant-based diet (yes, again) they also consume sheep and goat’s milk which reduce cholesterol levels. Fresh produce (much grown right at home), whole grains, and fiber rich legumes help this region get the antioxidant rich, low saturated fat diet we hear so much about in the news.

 

Connection:

Nicola Peninsula, Costa Rica:  This region applies strong faith in community in regard to family and social networks.

Ikara, Greece: In Ikara, it is not uncommon to find multiple generations living under one roof. (This is terrifying and yet heart warming to me.) Grandparents help raise their grandchildren and continue with an active role in the household. Family is first here and living alone is viewed as unhealthy.

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Sardinia, Italy: Family is the most important thing for this geographical region. “In Sardinia the older you get the more celebrated you are.”

Okinawa, Japan: These glorious Japanese grandmothers still have a role (dare I say purpose) of responsibility in the family and would definitely say they feel needed. It’s not just about respect but offering these Grandmothers a continuous role in their families’ wellbeing. Maintaining a social network is also an important part of an Okinawan’s lifestyle. This isn’t just for chatting about the weather, it’s a place where you can seek support in many ways and know that you are part of a caring system.

Loma Linda, California: The Seventh Day Adventists observe the Sabbath which is a 24 hour period where Adventist observe God, family, nature and of course community. You can’t observe more intricate systems and connections than those four things.

 

Exercise:

Nicola Peninsula, Costa Rica: “Pura Vida” comes out in their regular practice of low intensity physical activity. Farming and general labor is also a part of the everyday lifestyle of this group of people.

Okinawa, Japan: Gardening is a huge way of life in Okinawa. Not only is it part of their lifestyle but it also provides them with fresh veggies daily! Okinawan’s are also HUGE walkers which is a great way to get that circulation going!

Loma Linda, California: Adventists are big fans of daily exercise and frequently engage in methods meant to keep them healthy. After all their faith teaches their body is a temple and they really do treat it as such. Health clubs and centers focus on moderate healthy exercise and plenty of outdoor outings for all ages.

Ikara, Greece: There is nothing like walking around a quaint Grecian town especially if it’s Ikara. Walking and working outdoors help keep Ikarians fit and well, not to mention it’s hilly landscape so moderate physical activity is already built into their day-to-day.

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Sardinia, Italy: In Sardinia you are exercising no matter what thanks to the mountainous terrain which is credited with keeping many folks in shape.  Home to many shepherds, your daily duties will include sheep herding, walking, walking, and more walking.

Okay, but What’s Really the Secret of the Blue Zones?

The secret is there is no secret. Family, a primarily plant-based diet, stress reduction, moderation, a healthy social circle, and engagement in spirituality or religion all show up on the stay long and prosper health meter.

Eating well is important for overall quality of life, reducing stresses can change our entire wellbeing, and support whether that comes from your family, social circle, faith or spiritual practice can help us feel connected, needed and appreciated.

We all have needs and maybe these Blue Zones are just a little bit better at meeting their needs than other places in the world.

We may not want to live into our 90’s or 100’s but I think we can all agree that having a healthy happy life is paramount for us all.

Take note of your wellbeing, take stock of your life and then take action for your health and happiness…

Thanks for the reminder Blue Zones!

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