Blue Zones of longevity, discovered by Dan Buettner, are 5 locations around the globe where people consistently live to be over 100 years old and are ten times more likely to reach age 100 than the average American.
They are the hotspots of good health and old age that are not seen in many places in the world.
The 5 Blue Zones in the World
Loma Linda is an Adventist community in California that outlives the average American by 10 years. They live by the Bible, eating a strictly vegan diet, honoring the Sabbath, and allotting 24 hours per week to relax and de-stress.
Many members of this community are still independent and active well into their 90’s.
Some have been known to continue to go to work after turning 100!
The Nicoya culture is rooted in the words, Plan de Vida. This translates to a “plan of life” or “reason to live.” Knowing that they have a personal reason for life helps keep everyone motivated, especially the elders.
Their diet is based around tropical, native fruit, and very little amounts of processed food. The water is also rich in magnesium and calcium, which helps to keep bone strength in the elderly and prevent heart disease.
Additionally, Nicoyans spend only 15% of what the United States spends on health care, but are twice as likely to reach 90 years old and maintain their health.
Sardinia is a shepherd community on the coast of Italy and is host to the world’s longest-lived men!
They walk around five miles every day in the mountains as shepherds, which gives the body all the circulation, muscular, cardiovascular, and bone benefits that a trip to the gym would, but without the fresh air and sheep.
As most of these Blue Zones, their diet is primarily plant-based and whole grain, with the expectation of small portions of meat on holidays and Sundays.
Wine is a huge part of Italian culture, and with it comes several benefits. Sardinians come together during happy hour, which allows them to relax and socialize.
Additionally, Cannonau wine has 2 times the flavonoid which helps to clear the arteries than other wines, which can help their cardiovascular health.
Ikaria is a small Agean island off the coast of mainland Greece, who on average live 8 years longer than Americans. In comparison to the United States, they have 50% less heart disease and 80% less cancer.
They consume mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and olive oil. They relax daily by taking time to nap, which lowers their risk of heart disease by 65% since napping reduces stress hormones and allows the heart recovery time during the day.
This South Pacific island is home to women with the longest expected lifespan in the world. They live by the Confucian mantra that is spoken before meals: Hara Hachi Bu, which reminds them to stop eating when they are 80% full, so they do not eat too much.
Most elderly Okinawans credit their long lives to the practice of moai, which are groups that children are placed into at age 5.
These groups are social commitments to support each member as life goes on. This decreases the stress of life because they know they will always have someone there for them.
Okinawans are very family-oriented and often live with their older relatives, who help look after the children and teach the next generations about cultural traditions.
Lifestyle and the “Power 9”
The Danish Twin Study in (1870-1994) showed scientists that only about 20% of lifespan was based on genetics, but a whopping 80% is due to lifestyle.
Buettner took the information he gathered about birth and death rates as well as the lifestyles of the communities of the five locations to create the “Power 9” which are the general criteria for a long and healthy life that most people in Blue Zones live by.
Getting Exercise Naturally
Instead of working out intensely at the gym, their lives require them to be active in natural ways like walking to work, gardening, and housekeeping. They are outside often and frequently walk or bike instead of driving.
Purpose in Life
Known Plan de Vida in Nicoya and Ikigai in Okinawa, having a reason for getting out of bed in the morning can add 7 years onto life expectancy, and bring motivation, and bring joy to their day.
In all of these cultures, there is a time each day to relax. It is done through prayer, meditation, happy hour with friends, or even napping. By taking time to relax, the inflammation caused by stress is reduced, and life span increases.
Most of the diets in Blue Zones are plant-based and involve lots of beans. Most people only eat meat 5 times a month, and in small, palm-sized portions.
The antioxidants in fruits, as well as the fiber in vegetables, help keep Blue Zone residents full of vitamins and minerals that help preserve their bone and muscle structure well beyond their 40’s.
People in Blue Zones drink moderately and consistently, about 1 or 2 glasses a day. The drink of choice is typically wine, to be enjoyed with food or friends. A moderate amount of alcohol every day keeps stress levels down, and cardiovascular health up.
Blue Zone centenarians put family and love first; often living with older relatives and committing to a partner for life. Time is spent with both aging family members and children, which teaches the children how to look after their elders when the time comes for them to lend a hand.
People who live the longest have supportive friends that have been with them their whole lives. The social structure prevents loneliness and promotes strong self-esteem which is a building block of lasting happiness.
The information that Buettner and his team brought to the world about healthy lifestyles and longevity has helped city planners, politicians, educators, and many more to begin to create a world where more people live to see their 100th birthday.
Many people have been applying this knowledge to their everyday lives.
Lifestyle topics curiosities and awareness are growing ever popular and this new-found knowledge and education is now giving people of walks of life much-needed choices – choices they can embrace that can better their own lives and the lives of the next generations.