Chronic diseases are becoming more and more common in old age. While genetics somewhat determine your lifespan and susceptibility to these diseases, your lifestyle probably has a greater impact. A few places in the world are called “Blue Zones” or longevity hot spots. The term refers to geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and on average live longer than anywhere else in the world. This article describes the common lifestyle features of people in Blue Zones which include moving naturally, right tribe, positive life outlook, and eating wisely.
Blue Zone regions are incredible because the people there live not only longer, but better. Besides having a large percentage of people that live to be 100 years old, the aging population also remains physically active well into their 80's and 90's, and typically do not suffer from the degenerative diseases common in most parts of the industrialized world.
Researchers have found the evidence-based common denominators of all the Blue Zones regions. Here are a few of them:
1. Move Naturally. Moving naturally throughout the day — walking, gardening, doing housework — is a core part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida. Knowing why you wake up in the morning makes you healthier, happier, and according to researchers adds up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
3. Down Shift. Stress is part of life, but Blue Zones centenarians have stress-relieving rituals built into their daily routines. Adventists pray, Ikarians nap, and Sardinians do happy hour. Find your own down shift!
4. 80% Rule. People in Blue Zones areas stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full and eat their smallest meal in the early evening.
5. Plant Slant. Beans are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains round out the rest of the diet and meat is eaten in small amounts.
6. Wine @ 5. Moderate but regular consumption of wine (with friends and/or food) is part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
7. Loved Ones First. Having close and strong family connections (with spouses, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren) is common with Blue Zones centenarians.
8. Right Tribe. The world’s longest lived people have close friends and strong social networks.
There are currently 5 known blue zones in the world:
- The Italian Island of Sardinia
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California
- Costa Rica's isolated Nicoya Peninsula
- Ikaria, an isolated Greek island