Have you ever heard of Blue Zones? Blue Zones are regions of the world where people live significantly longer than average.
A few years ago, I had to do a lot of research into the blue zones of the world for a project I was working on for a client. Since then, I’ve become a bit obsessed with the similarities between Blue Zones and the people who live there.
I found it very interesting that there are many similarities in the lifestyles of people living in the Blue Zones. Although these zones exist all over the world, there are some common factors that seem to contribute to the people living in them living much longer than in other parts of the world.
The first blue zone discovered was in the Nuoro province on the Italian island of Sardinia. Researchers have discovered that mountain villages are home to an incredible number of men over 100 years old. Other Blue Zones are in Japan, California, Costa Rica, and Greece.
But what is it about these communities that allows them to live longer, healthier lives?
And the next question on our lips is something we all want to know…Is there anything we can learn from these people to help us live longer? I don’t know about you, but.., I’ll take all the tips I get!
Now, sit back and relax (relaxing might be important!). I’m going to take you on a journey to the world’s blue zones and see what you can learn from the many centenarians who live there.
Lucky locals in Sardinia are 10 times more likely to live to be 100 years old than those from the United States. This is a pretty good statistic and is thought to be genetic, as it has the M26 marker, which is associated with longevity. Because of the geographical isolation of Sardinians, this gene remains relatively undiluted.
While good genes no doubt play a role in their longevity, we know their lifestyle is just as important. Sardinians lead a slow, traditional lifestyle. They hunt, fish, and harvest their own food, most of which is a plant-based diet.
Family meals are an important part of daily life. Mediterranean cuisine is accompanied by wine and laughter, and a leisurely lunch is often followed by an afternoon nap. They have close bonds with their friends and often drink herbal teas, which are packed with antioxidants.
Okinawa is home to the oldest woman on earth and is called the land of the immortals. Sadly, since the invasion of fast food, life expectancy has declined, proving that it is their diet and traditional lifestyle that led to their longevity.
A vegetarian diet rich in soybeans keeps them slim and healthy, but growing your own vegetables is thought to be a big help as well. Gardening has been proven to reduce stress, provide good exercise, improve flexibility, and give you plenty of time to absorb vitamin D outdoors.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
People in Nicoya are twice as likely to reach age 90 as the average American. Interestingly, Americans spend 15% of their health care costs on health care. Nicoya centenarians have a strong sense of purpose and a need to contribute to their communities. Many families live with grandparents and take care of their grandchildren. This not only allows seniors to be active, but also gives them a clear purpose. Nicoyans have strong ties to friends and family, and often have very close relationships with their neighbors.
Their eating habits can also affect their longevity. Nicoyans eat a light dinner in the evening, so they never go to bed on a full stomach. Local water is also naturally fortified with calcium, which may explain fewer hip fractures and lower rates of heart disease in older adults.
Loma Linda, California
The Seventh-day Adventist Church of Southern California’s community of approximately 9,000 people is proof that a healthy lifestyle can indeed lead to a longer life. On average, Loma Linda Adventists live 10 years longer than other Americans.
They spent this extra decade living an incredibly healthy lifestyle. They are vegetarians and avoid all alcohol and tobacco. They drink water, eat nuts, and exercise regularly. They believe Sunday is a day of rest and spend the day relaxing with their families. Adventists also believe that being surrounded by like-minded people with the same beliefs helps maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A combination of factors is thought to be why people on this small island in the Aegean Sea live eight years longer than most Americans. There is virtually no dementia in Ikaria, cancer is reduced by 20%, and the incidence of heart disease is halved.
Like the Sardinians, the Icarians developed a culture of isolation and a slower pace of life. Family and friends are valued and socializing is an important part of life. Wine is enjoyed late into the night, and the warm weather means we spend a lot of time outdoors. The rugged mountainous region also allows people to stay active well into old age. Some of the longest-living Ikerians are also the poorest because they live in steep highlands.
One particularly unusual thing about Ikerians is that they sometimes fast. They are traditional Greek Orthodox Christians, and this religion requires them to fast, cutting out 30% of their daily calories. Research shows that fasting can improve your health and extend your lifespan.
What can we learn from the world’s Blue Zones and how can we apply it to our lives?
There are some consistencies common to all Blue Zones. Most important are close connections with family and friends, and these bonds are thought to reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being. So, pick up the phone and invite your friends and family over for dinner (with social distancing.
If possible, you’ll want to cook vegetarian dishes using vegetables you’ve grown yourself in your garden.
If you’re in Europe, it’s fine to drink red wine with dinner, but otherwise, stick to calcium-rich water or herbal tea. Laugh a lot, eat in the garden and get some vitamin D.
During the day, you are free to take a nap or leave the children with the grandparents for a few hours. It will give grandparents a sense of purpose that is essential for older generations.
Consider moving to the mountains. A daily hike through rough terrain will help you stay fit as a fiddle well into your 90s. There was nothing in my research to suggest that living near the ocean or in a country with a warm climate is a factor in living longer, but since all of these places are warm and close to the ocean, We conclude that this is a factor in longevity element!
Another consistency of people in the Blue Zones is a slower pace of life. What’s the point of rushing when it takes at least 100 years to get things done?
10 easy ways to adopt the Blue Zone way of life
- switch to a vegetarian diet
- start a vegetable garden
- Get involved in your local community
- Be as social as possible and surround yourself with like-minded people
- Spend as much time as possible with your family
- Walk instead of using a car or public transport whenever possible
- Get outdoors as much as possible
- start a hobby
- Slow down and enjoy simple pleasures
- If you feel particularly relaxed, have a drink or two
- Might be a good idea to move to the coast!
I don’t know about you, but this sounds really nice and really puts things into perspective.
If you liked this article, you may also want to read: What is empiricism and how does it lead to a happier life?