I recently read the book “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. He describes geographical areas were people, against all odds, live longer and suffer less illness than all other populations in the rest of the world. The communities living in these Blue Zones share many commonalities. With the help of top life extension researchers and the National Institute of Aging, Mr. Buettner uncovers some interesting principles that help these people live longer. He identifies 9 specific habits attributed to longer and healthier lives. Besides getting up and moving your family to one of these areas there are some useful things you can do to help your chances of leading a happier, healthier and longer life.
In actuality, there are very few surprises in the book. Longevity is a complex phenomenon involving, genetics, food choices, community, emotional well-being, exercise and environmental factors. It is not simply a matter of eating handfuls vitamins, juicing and going to the gym two times per week. Consistent habits and practices with a strong social structure are at the core of longevity.
There are 5 places in the world with a disproportionately high number of centagenrerians. Living in one of these areas provides you with 3 times the chance of reaching 100. The “Blue Zones” are:
- Ikaria, Greece
- Loma Linda, California
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Okinawa, Japan
- Sardina, Italy
The denizens of these areas have seemingly inoculated themselves from early death, yet they DO NOT engage in the very things many of us associate with proper health:
- They do not take vitamins or supplements.
- They do not participate in marathon, triathlon or cross-fit style exercises.
- They do not count calories. Many aren’t even aware of the concept.
- They are not encouraged to avoid fat and/or gluten.
- They do not abstain from alcohol.
- They do not ‘juice’, perform cleanses or drink protein shakes.
There are 9 lifestyle habits they DO participate in, for a longer and happier life:
- They stay naturally physically active. Non-exercise based physical activity is very high in these communities. It is more about moving without a focus on fitness but instead on having fun: walking, gardening, playing, biking, hiking, cleaning etc. Recess for adults, why not?
- They eat small portions and stop before they are stuffed. It is the practice of “Hara Hachi Bu,” the Okinawan reminder to stop eating once the stomach is 80 percent full.
- They eat more vegetables, fruit and nuts and less meat. Meat is a side to the vegetable the main course. A focus on eating nuts (a handful a day) can give an extra 2-3 years of life expectancy!
- They drink 1-2 glasses of red wine per day (grape juice is not the same). Women 1 glass, men 2 glasses.
- They have a purpose driven life. Why do you get up in the morning? Are you excited about your day/life? Discover what makes you happy and strive toward it while enjoying the trip. It is not the goal but rather the path that will truly make you happy.
- They take time every day to relieve stress. You can do this by meditating and unplugging from the electronics. Sit for 15 minutes by yourself in silence. Breath and calm your body; pray or even take a nap.
- They belong to a spiritual community.
- They make family a priority and do things together on a regular basis; family dinners, walks, game nights etc.
- They pick the right people to be around. The people surrounding you influence your health more than almost any other factor. Surround yourself with those who share your values and avoid people who bring you down. Choose the right friends. This will add more years to your life than just about anything else.
If you’d like to find out more about this book check out this website:by