As we grow older, it is common to begin exploring ways to look and feel younger. One organization that has been doing so for years is headed by an author and researcher named Dan Buettner. Using demographic information as his guide, he and his colleagues identified five regions around the globe where extreme longevity is common. These regions are called the Blue Zones.
What are the Blue Zones?
In researching the Blue Zones, Buettner and his team uncovered some very interesting trends:
- The highest concentration of male centenarians resides in Sardinia. Men on this island in the Mediterranean Sea live to the age of 100 in greater numbers than anywhere else on earth.
- Seventh Day Adventists make up a large portion of the population in Loma Linda, California. They also live 9 – 11 years longer than their counterparts in other regions of North America.
- If you are a middle aged person living on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, you have a four times greater chance of living to the age of 90 than someone living in the United States.
- People who reside in Okinawa have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world.
- Residents of Ikaria, Greece have the world’s lowest middle age mortality rates and the fewest cases of dementia.
What do each of these regions have in common? What do residents know that helps them live longer, happier, and healthier lives?
Here’s what researchers have to say.
9 Lessons Learned from the Blue Zones
The good news is that genes account for only 20% role of longevity. What may help you beat the odds are the lessons researchers learned from observing people in the Blue Zones:
- Keep moving: You don’t need to run twenty miles a week or spend several hours a day in the gym to live longer. People in the Blue Zones are active in more natural ways. They spend time gardening, hiking, biking, swimming, walking, and more.
- Plant-based diet: Make your way through the Blue Zones and you will find residents following similar diets: vegetables, beans, fruits, olive oil, whole grains, and nuts are the staples.
- Red wine: While this one might be a bit controversial to people in this country, Blue Zone residents typically enjoy a glass of red wine with friends every day. Researchers believe red wine helps by decreasing stress and the chronic inflammation in the body linked to illnesses such as cardiac disease and diabetes.
- Hara Hachi Bu: The typical western diet isn’t just unhealthy it often comes in bigger portions. Overeating leads to obesity. In the Blue Zones you will find people who eat only until they are no longer hungry. In effect, they stop eating before they actually feel full. The calorie gap between no longer feeling hungry and feeling full helps maintain a healthy weight.
- Have purpose: Those who have clear goals in life tend to live longer. That sense of purpose helps people decrease stress and find better balance in their daily lives.
- Slow down: Our overscheduled, always in a rush society can lead to unhealthy amounts of daily stress. This in turn increases inflammation in the body, potentially causing the body to turn on itself. Slowing down can help reduce stress and prevent a variety of illnesses, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
- Nurture the spirit: People who take time to nurture their spiritual side experience lower rates of depression, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. It doesn’t have to be an organized form of religion, but it does have to be something that helps you connect with fellow believers once each week.
- Family is a priority: Family is also a priority for residents living in Blue Zones. Having a strong sense of family with loving relationships appears to result in longer, happier, and healthier lives.
- A positive tribe: Being careful to build a close tribe that is made up of people who have a positive outlook on life also appears to be a trait shared across the Blue Zones.
Does Your Lifestyle Measure Up?
You can calculate your own life expectancy by taking the True Vitality Test online. This quick quiz will use your current lifestyle to predict your personal longevity. It will also identify opportunities for improvement.
At Five Star Senior Living communities, we help residents live longer, healthier lives through our 360 Lifestyle program. It is designed to nurture each of the dimensions of wellness from physical activity to spiritual health. Call us today to learn more!