WHAT ARE BLUE ZONES?
And Why Do People Live So Long There?
We all want to live long and prosper, right? Well, some people in certain regions of the world have really figured out how to do that. Ever heard of “Blue Zones?” These are the geographic areas where people live the longest and healthiest. Coined by Author Dan Buettner, these regions were aptly named Blue Zones as researchers identified them by drawing blue circles around them on a map. Buettner described five known Blue Zones in his book. Those regions are:
- Icaria (Greece): Icaria is an Aegean Island in Greece where people eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, red wine and homegrown vegetables. It has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia.
- Ogliastra, Sardinia (Italy): The Ogliastra region of Sardinia is home to some of the oldest men in the world. They live in mountainous regions where they typically work on farms and drink lots of red wine.
- Okinawa (Japan): Okinawa is home to the world’s oldest women, who eat a lot of soy-based foods and practice tai chi, a meditative form of exercise.
- Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica): The Nicoyan diet is based around beans and corn tortillas. The people of this area regularly perform physical jobs into old age and have a sense of life purpose known as “plan de vida.” It loosely translates to “plan of life.”
- The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California (USA): The Seventh-day Adventists are a very religious group of people. They’re mostly vegetarians and live in tight-knit communities.
The 9 Blue Zone Secrets
So, what makes these people so special that they would live to be well into their 100’s and thrive while doing it? It comes down to lifestyle. Like Traditional Chinese Medicine, a well balanced, focused lifestyle. Lifestyle is the cornerstone of most of these regions. It’s believed that the negligence of one’s body causes illness while taking good care of both body and mind are essential to your well being.
Blue Zone people have essentially mastered the TCM ideals when it comes to lifestyle. Here are 9 common denominators that make up the criteria for the Blue Zones.
- Natural Movement: The people living in these Blue Zones don’t go to the gym or worry about building a six pack. Instead, they have lifestyles that allow them to be physically active on a daily basis. It’s more of a natural nudge to move vs needing to go to the gym to be active.
- Sense of Purpose: Having a sense of purpose, or a reason to get out of bed in the morning can add up to 7 years to your life expectancy.
- Stress Reduction: Something most people miss in their day to day life is a way to reduce the stress in their lives. A common thread of people living in Blue Zones is they have routines in place to reduce stress like meditation, naps, prayer and even happy hour.
- 80% Rule: This is the idea that you should stop eating when you’re stomach is 80% full. That extra 20% could be the difference between losing weight or gaining weight so if you stop before you’re stuffed, you have better odds of keeping your body at a healthy weight. You should also eat your largest meal in the morning and the smallest in the late afternoon or early evening.
- Plant focused meals: The majority of the meals people in the Blue Zones consume contain lentils and veggies. Meat is consumed less than 5 times per month. This is similar to the TCM lifestyle which encourages a variety of foods based on the individual need but nothing in excess.
- Happy Hour: This is going to be everyone’s favorite. Drink 1-2 glasses of red wine per day with food or with friends during social time. This is a common thread of the people of the Blue Zones with the exception of the Adventist group. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, wine is said to harmonize the blood and chi. It’s a tonic for Yang and expels cold.
- Faith Based Belonging: Most of the people in these Blue Zone areas belong to some sort of religious group. It’s suggested to attend faith based services 4 times per month. They say it can add 4-14 years to your life!
- Family First: Keeping family close and investing in the lives of the children and your spouse provides a sense of belonging and protection.
- Community: Choosing the right social circle is very important. Bad habits are contagious, just as good habits are. Surrounding yourself with a group of friends with good habits who encourage good behavior enhances your quality of life and sense of satisfaction.
Isn’t it exciting to know that you can live like a Blue Zoner? With a few lifestyle tweaks, you can potentially increase your life expectancy and improve your quality of life. You’re in control of your daily lifestyle choices, so you can choose where you start and create new habits.