What is a Blue Zone, and what does it have to do with a healthy lifestyle? Well, the answer would be everything! The Blue Zone’s way of life has shown to lead to a long, healthy life, and isn’t that what we are all hoping for? Longevity? Longevity is defined as “a long duration of individual life,” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/longevity). Longevity is sometimes accredited to genetics, but ironically longevity is mostly determined by environmental factors and lifestyles. The residents of “blue zones” are found to have more longevity than the average person in the American population.
So, with that said, since we already defined what longevity is, now let’s answer, “what are blue zones exactly?” Blue zones are areas of the world where people are believed to live remarkably longer lives than the average American. They move more, stress less, and have an overall healthier lifestyle.
They also have a positive attitude about aging. They make healthier food decisions, with their food choices including choosing to eat very little meat, with a diet consisting mostly of plant- based choices. These choices include nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables, such as arugula, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and legumes. They have a positive effect on overall health.
People in blue zones drink coffee on a regular basis. They will start their day with a cup of
Where are the Blue Zones?
The Blue Zones are found all over the world. From California in the United States, to Okinawa, Japan, each has their own unique way of healthy living.
- Loma Linda, California – Residents in Loma Linda, California, tend to live 10 more healthy years than the average American. Their diet consists of grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables. It is a traditional, biblical diet.
- Sardinia (Ogliastra Region), Italy – People living in this mountainous region of Italy have lower rates of diabetes, cancer, and death for people under the age of 65. This is believed to be due to the population’s low protein diet. Sardinia’s mountainous region also boasts the world’s highest population of centenarian men.
- Icaria (or Ikaria), Greece – This island is eight miles off Turkey in the Aegean Sea. The people of Icaria eat a very traditional Mediterranean diet, consisting of mostly vegetables and healthy fats. They consume smaller amounts of meats and dairy.
- Okinawa, Japan – Controlled by Japan, Okinawa is the largest island in the sub-tropic archipelago. It has the home of the world’s longest- lived women. Turmeric, mugwort, goya (bitter melon), soybeans, and Okinawan sweet potatoes are primary in the island resident’s diet.
- Nicoya, Costa Rica – Located in Central America, this region boasts the second highest concentration of centenarian men, and the world’s lowest rate of middle-aged mortality. Their longevity has been accredited to low intensity physical activity, deep social networks, and strong faith communities.
Common Lifestyle Characteristics of the Blue Zones
Despite the distance between each of the Blue Zones, they do have some characteristics that make them very similar. These characteristics contribute to the longevity of their people.
• Family – put ahead of all other concerns
• Less smoking
• Semi-vegetarianism – the majority of food consumed is derived from plants
• Constant moderate physical activity – an ardent part of life
• Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
• Legumes – commonly consumed
Dan Buettner (https://danbuettner.com/), author and founder of the Blue Zones, and his research team, found that in these 5 blue zones, there are common denominators, or “longevity lessons” consistently instilled in all five populations of residents. These uniformities are known as the Power 9. They are listed below:
1. Move naturally throughout the day
2. Have and cultivate a strong sense of purpose
3. Downshift every day to relieve stress
4. 80% Rule – stop eating when you are 80% full
5. Plant Slant: Make beans, whole grains, veggies, and fruit the center of your diet
6. Wine @ 5: Enjoy wine and alcohol moderately with friends and/or food
7. Belong: Be part of a faith-based community or organization
8. Loved Ones First: Have close friends and strong family connections
9. Right Tribe: Cultivate close friends and strong social network
A lot can be said for the Power 9. The 80% rule, the Plant Slant, moving naturally throughout the day, and wine at 5 all work towards positive physical health. Downshifting to relieve stress, cultivating a strong sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, putting loved ones first, and the right people in your life work towards positive mental health, therefore creating a balance within.
In many of the blue zones, residents between the ages of 80 and 90 years of age are still active and independent, much more so than their American counter parts. In America, the population lives a much more sedentary lifestyle. There are many conveniences contributing to the sedentary nature of the population, including the convenience of fast food, Ebay, Amazon, and Uber eats. Obesity, heart disease, and many other health ailments run rampant, taking away from longevity.
Another key to the longevity of the blue zones is their low- tech nature. The internet, social media, and other stress causing components aren’t as desirable in the blue zone population. Technology and media are utilized more in their American counter parts lives. In America, people define themselves in likes and shares, and social media popularity. In the blue zones, people live with the values and morals of their grandparents and ancestors, leaving them with much less stress and negativity.
What else can be said for the longevity of blue zones? Perhaps, in conclusion, we can honestly and truly say the residents of the blue zones live better? Who wouldn’t want to live with less stress? Who wouldn’t want to eat better? Who wouldn’t want an elite group of close friends or tight family ties that they can count on? Who wouldn’t want to have close-knit relationships with their family members? Oh, and most importantly, don’t forget that daily glass of wine!