Areas on the planet where people regularly live to over 100 years of age today are often referred to as “blue zones”.
Dan Buettner (Twitter @bluezones) has been a National Geographic researcher and explorer for over 20 years. He has written an article for National Geographic magazine called "Secrets of Living Longer” and also two books - The Blue Zone Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People and Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People.
Dan estimates that 20% of the length of a person’s life is genetic while 80% is lifestyle related, and even more so, directly related to the environment.
After extensive research of five blue zone hot spots:
- Sardinia, Italy where it is not unusual for men at 106 years of age to still be chopping wood for the family.
- Okinawa, Japan where there are 30 female centenarians.
- Loma Linda, California where there is the highest concentration of Seventh Day Adventists in the world, a religious group who keep a strict Sabbath and diet routine.
- Nicoya, Costa Rica where the healthiest people are often the poorest who can’t afford junk food.
- Ikaria, Greece where people live on the healthiest and purest form of the Mediterranean diet.
Dan summarized the following secrets to living longer:
1. Move naturally. Most of these people don’t think of exercise in terms of going to a gym (although there is nothing wrong with that), but rather as a natural part of their life. They have gardens and their houses require active work. They are moving regularly. They walk all the time.
2. Eat Wisely. Anywhere from 90-100% of these people have a plant-based diet with ample amounts of fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts. They eat meat infrequently (less than 5x a month) and fish only a few times a week. They drink lots of water, tea, and black coffee, as well as a glass or two of wine each day.
3. Connect daily. Loved ones and family are first in these people’s lives. They spend ample time together over meals, in conversation (not on devices or looking at screens!) and in play. Many of them are an active part of a faith community.
4. Have the Right Outlook. These people live in lower stress areas. Yes, they worry about their kids and their health and their finances. But they have positive daily rituals - prayer, meditation, naps, happy hours., etc. They also have a vocabulary of purpose. They have meaning and direction for their lives and this reduces stress.
Of course, it is about doing this for a lifetime, not just a few weeks or months. However, it’s never too late to start to add years to your life and extend your life expectancy. Dan estimates that the average American could live about 12 years longer ... IF they made these changes!
So what about you? What is your takeaway? What changes could you make today to enhance the quality and length of your life? Life is a gift. It’s your choice what you do with it.
Is it time to buy a dog or a pet and walk them every day? Is it time to plant a garden? These kinds of things get us moving naturally.
Is it time to learn some new healthy recipes that are both nutritious and delicious? The food you eat every day has a direct effect on your health, energy, and longevity.
Is it time to make some new friends? After all bad behaviors are contagious.
Next, in part 3, we will look at how NOT to die!
[Photo Source: KDA Consulting]