9 Lessons For Living Longer From People In The Blue Zones

How To Live To Be 100+

Over the course of five years, explorer, educator and author Dan Buettner took teams of scientists to places in the world where people have lived the longest and healthiest lives.

 

THE BLUE ZONES

Buettner found five ‘Blue Zones‘ with relatively high percentages of centenarians: “where people live 10 years longer, experience a sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease and a fifth the rate of major cancers”. The 5 populations with relatively the most 100-year-olds where found:

  • In the highlands of the Italian island Sardinia
  • On the archipelago of Okinawa in Japan
  • At Loma Lina with the Seventh-day Adventists in California
  • On the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica
  • And on the island Icaria in Greece

 

SO WHAT’S THEIR SECRET?

Buettner found that the oldest people on the planet practice 9 common-sense habits as a natural part of their daily routine which raise their longevity as well as vitality tremendously.

 

1. Moving Naturally

First off, people in the ‘Blue Zones’ don’t do heavy exercise regularly – they neither lift heavy weights, nor do they run marathons. They live in environments that require their constant moving, and especially walk a lot. They don’t rely on mechanical or electric conveniences. Instead of using rollators and walker frames, they walk up to their high-hilled houses each day. When they engage in intentional activities it is with things they like. At very high ages, they will still carry their groceries, babysit their great-great-grandchildren, tend their gardens and repair things in and around the house.

 

2. Having A Sense Of Purpose

The Okinawans call this ikigai and the Nicoyans their plan de vida. They have a reason to get up in the morning. Having a goal in life can increase your life expectancy up to 7 years.

 

3. Downshifting

Of course people in the Blue Zones experience stress like all of us. Stress is one of our worst enemies and leads to chronic low-grade inflammation, as with every age-related disease. However, the people who’ve lived the longest lives, know when to downshift and consciously take time for that. Buttoner explains: “When you slow down 15 minutes each day, you turn your inflammatory system into an anti-inflammatory system.”

Okinawans meditate a few moments a day honouring their ancestors; the Seventh-day Adventists pray and focus 24 hours a week on God; the Icarians take a nap in the afternoon and the Sardinans pray and have happy hour.

 

4. The 80% Rule

A 2500-years-old Confucianist mantra, Hara Hachi bu, reminds the Okinawans before the meal to stop eating whenever the stomach is 80 percent full. All over The Blue Zones people tend to eat wisely, often with the smallest and last meal in the late afternoon or early evening. They also have strategies to keep from overeating – such as smaller plates, taking time to sit down to eat and leaving part of what’s cooked away from the table.

 

5. A Largely Plant Based Diet

A plant based diet is the cornerstone of most longevity diets, but from time to time they do eat meat and fish in the Blue Zones. The Okinawa diet includes many anti-inflammatory properties and incredibly nutritious ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, and herbs and spices like fennel and turmeric. The Adventists in California eat their diet as prescribed in the bible, which is rich in legumes, seeds, and green plants. Also the Mediterranean Blue Zones consume lots of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and beans. The Sardinians have a special type of bread made from durum. They also make cheese from animals that ate grass instead of being corn-fed – resulting into a healthier Omega-3 (essential fatty acids) ratio than most of our cheeses.

Processed food and sugars are scientifically linked to chronic inflammation diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and obesity. The Blue Zones’ whole-food and largely plant based diets are naturally low in processed sugars.

 

6. Drinking Moderate Amounts of Red Wine

People in all Blue Zones (except the Adventists) drink alcohol regularly, but only in small amounts (so one or two small glasses instead of 8 in one night). “The Sardinians have a type of wine that has three times the level of polyphenols than any known wine in the world, called Cannonau”, Buettner explains. Polyphenols such as flavonoids are micronutrients with preventive properties for degenerative diseases.

 

7. Belief & Spirituality

At the foundation of longevity and vitality is how people connect. The research shows that belonging to a tribe or spiritual community increases life expectancy up to 4 to 14 years. Proactively surrounding yourself with the right people, with whom you can be yourself, and knowing they have your back in difficult times is a great component for good health.

 

8. Taking Care Of Loved Ones

Successful centenarians put their loved ones and families first. They commit to a life partner and love and invest time in their own children, increasing their life expectancy with another 3 years. Having parents and grand parents nearby also decreases the mortality rate of the children, also known as “The Grandmother Effect”.

People in the Blue Zones also receive more social equity in their communities and societies as the years pass by. They are respected for their wisdom and their age, making ageing a whole lot more fun.

 

9. Having Healthy Friends

Our Blue Zone centenarians have on average half a dozen of friends with whom they travel through life. These friends often have the same or a similar healthy lifestyle. The Framingham studies show that if three of your friends are smoking, overeating, healthy, happy or lonely, you are 50% more likely to be so as well. The social networks of these longest living people have a positive effect on their behaviours and lifestyle.

When you think about it, your friends are long-term adventures, and therefore, perhaps the most significant thing you can do to add more years to your life, and life to your years. – Dan Buettner at TEDxTC, 2009

 

There is a lot of confusion around what really helps us to live longer and healthier. This is something we want to solve with healthcoachFX. We deeply value and respect Buettner’s research. We seek to build a community of people with healthy lifestyles, in which we help each other create a healthy balance with the right nourishment, movement and mindfulness.


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