With billions of dollars being spent in the cosmetics industry every year to ever-changing trends in fitness, it’s no secret that adults around the world are looking for the fountain of youth. While not exactly a place to turn back time, there are four areas of the world where people are living longer, healthier lives. These regions are referred to as the Blue Zones.
In the Blue Zones, people live to the age of 100 at ten times the rate of the average population. Aging researcher Dan Buettner knows the Blue Zones well. He started traveling the world in the early 1990s looking for regions where people live the healthiest, longest lives.
Buettner was specifically interested in exploring the lifestyles of people in these areas and to learn what we can all do to improve our own health and longevity.
What Do We Know about Aging in the Blue Zones?
Buettner and scientists from the National Institute on Aging and National Geographic identified four distinct Blue Zones:
- Sardinia, Italy
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
What we know about people in these regions of the world is:
- Residents of Okinawa live the longest disability-free lives of anyplace in the world.
- Males who reside in Sardinia live to the age of 100 in greater numbers than any other region on earth.
- Middle-aged adults who live in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica have four times higher chance of reaching the age of 90 than those living in the U.S.
- Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California live an average of 9 – 11 years longer than peers in any other location in the U.S.
Blue Zone Lifestyle Lessons to Consider
The good news is that researchers say Blue Zone residents’ success with aging well isn’t solely attributed to strong genes. In fact, only about 25% of longevity is linked to family history.
The behaviors residents of the Blue Zone exhibit that may help you live a longer, healthier life include:
- Physical Activity: Blue Zone lifestyles show you don’t need to spend every day in the gym to live a longer life. Instead, people in these regions engage in physical activities they find personally enjoyable, like hiking, walking, gardening, biking, and swimming on a daily basis.
- Mediterranean Diet: A plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains has been proven to decrease the risk for heart-related illnesses. People in the Blue Zones follow this type of Mediterranean-style diet.
- Purposeful Living: Having clear goals leads to a life lived with greater purpose. Living a satisfied, fulfilling life is linked to lower rates of stress which, in turn, is believed to help ward off chronic illnesses.
- Hara Hachi Bu: This phrase translates to a behavior that suggests you eat only until you are no longer hungry. While it seems like common sense, people in most western cultures eat until they are full. The difference is lies in stopping before you actually feel full. It’s because there is a significant calorie gap between the time when you are no longer hungry and the point when you feel full. It helps Blue Zone residents maintain a healthy weight.
- Red Wine: While somewhat controversial in this country, many Blue Zone residents enjoy a daily glass of red wine. Researchers believe it helps reduce the effects of stress on the body by decreasing the chronic inflammation that is often linked to illness.
- Slow Down: Along the same lines is recognizing the damage chronic stress can do to the body. Inflammation is one of the most notable. It can cause the body to attack itself. A slower lifestyle is linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity to name just a few.
- Faith: People who nurture their spiritual side also experience lower rates of depression, cardiovascular disease, and suicide. The body’s natural immunity seems to be stronger in people who have some form of spiritual beliefs and connection.
- Personal relationships: Staying engaged with family and friends is also a priority in Blue Zones. Close bonds and familial relationships seem to lead to both happier and healthier lives.
- Positivity: Being surrounded by friends and family members who are positive and supportive is also important. Maintaining healthy habits is easier when your inner circle of people share your commitment to living an optimistic life.
Calculate Your Life Expectancy
Wondering how your own lifestyle stacks up against people in the Blue Zones? The True Vitality Test will use your lifestyle and behaviors to predict your personal health and longevity. The confidential results will also identify opportunities for improvement.