The Secrets of Blue Zones
The average American lives to be 77.9 years old, but less than 40 percent of Americans rereporto very happy or satisfied with their life. What if we could all live an extra 12 years and be 40 percent happier by optimizing our lifestyle and environment?
National Geographic, the National Institutes on Aging and AARP teamed together with Dan Buettner, founder and CEO of an organization called Blue Zones, Inc., and studied parts of the world where people live the longest and led the happiest lives.
A Blue Zone is a region of the world where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100 years. Scientists and demographers have classified five Blue Zones, or longevity hot-spots, by having common healthy traits and life practices that result in higher-than-normal longevity:
The islands of Okinawa, Japan
Loma Linda, California
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Working with a team of scientists, Dan Buettner and his team found the nine common characteristics of the entire world’s long-lived people.
Surprisingly, the secrets of how to live longer and happier lives were not heavily concentrated in diets or exercise programs, but in creating the right surroundings.
From all this information he collected, Buettner has drawn up a list of what he calls the…
These are lifestyle changes we each can make that will help us live up to another 10 years.
1. Move a Lot, Naturally
Engage in low-intensity physical activity every day.
Most of these groups of people did a lot of gardening or followed flocks or herds of animals every day.
Lots of walking up and down hills and lots of squatting working crops. Some would walk 5 to 6 miles per day following flocks of sheep and goats up and down hills and valleys.
Americans burn fewer than 100 calories a day engaged in “exercise”.
We can get more physical activity naturally if we live in walkable communities, de-convenience our homes by getting rid of power tools and grow gardens.
Walking may just be the best activity for longevity.
2. Do NOT Eat Till You Are Full
This lesson mostly comes from the Okinawans who eat only until they are about 80% full.
One thing this does is keep down the number of calories you take in every day. It will also keep you from being “too full to work”.
Cut 20% of your calories with evidence-based practices: eat a big breakfast, eat with your family, remove the TV from your dining area and say pre-meal expressions of appreciation.
3. Do Eat Lots of Plants
While animals did make up a major part of the life of some of these groups, as a whole meat was not served very often. It was for festivals, holidays and maybe on Sunday.
Instead, Blue Zoners grow their own vegetables and fruits in their own gardens and fields and this plus other locally grown plants make up the majority of any meal.
Eat mostly a plant-based diet heavy on beans, nuts and green plants. Eat meat in small portions (the size of a deck of cards) fewer than twice weekly.
4. Drink Some Wine Every Day
Drinkers out-live non-drinkers.
Wine contains substances that help you live longer.
Drinking a glass or two every day helps your body. But it is also the sharing of the wine with others and the time spent relaxing while drinking that helps.
Two glasses of wine daily will add years to your life, especially when consumed during a plant-based meal.
5. Have a Reason to Live and Know Your Purpose
Why do you get up in the morning? Who is relying on you?
Having a purpose, a reason, to get up and to move through your day is very important. For some of the shepherds in Sardinia, it was taking care of the sheep and goats and the family that were their reasons to keep on.
People who know why they wake up in the morning live up to seven years longer than those who don’t. Know your values, passions and talents–and how to share them on a regular basis.
6. Relieve Stress, “Down Shift”
Find ways to remove stress from your life and if you cannot remove it, find ways to relieve it.
Part of this can be done by slowing down and part by removing some of the“noise” of life.
Again an important enough topic a category will be set up here to discuss ways of doing this and the latest research about what stress does to our bodies.
Chronic inflammation caused by stress is related to every major, age-related disease. To reverse inflammation, find time each day to meditate, nap, pray or enjoy a happy hour.
7. Be Active in a Faith Community, Belong
Just being a member of a church or other spiritual belief is not enough. You must be involved in your faith or spiritual belief in taking an active role.
Recommit, reconnect or explore a new faith-based community. It does not matter if you are of Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist faith.
People who show up to their faith community four times a week live an extra 4-14 years.
8. Family, Family First
Making your loved ones a high priority in your life is extremely important. In the Blue Zones, these family relationships mean an older person is taken care of at home and still contributes to the family.
To place an older person in a nursing home would dishonor the family.
By not being in a nursing home, elders receive better care and mental as well as physical stimulation. They have their roles among which are holding the youngsters to a high standard.
In Okinawa, even the ancestors are remembered with family shrines. Living in a thriving family is worth half a dozen extra years of life expectancy. Invest time in your kids, nurture a monogamous relationship and keep your aging parents nearby.
9. Social Network
This does not mean Facebook or MySpace or LinkedIn.
What it talks about are the people you surround yourself with.
For instance, do the people you socialize withhold with Blue Zone values?
If your friends are all smokers or overweight, it is very likely that you will be also. People with lots of social connections live longer than those without them.
And this doesn’t mean you just know a lot of people. It means you socialize with them and connect with them on a daily basis.
Resources: bluezones.com, npr.com