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In case, you haven’t noticed, life expectancy has been increasing by leaps and bounds. Living to be a hundred is not that uncommon these days. In fact, the United Nations is expecting more than 573,000 centenarians this year. People are living longer and longer. Not only are they living past 100, they are also having less sickness and diseases than in the past. Longevity is attributed to a healthy life diet. Longevity may also be due to living in the Blue Zones.
What is the Healthy Life Blue Zone?
Have you ever wondered what the secret sauce for living a long, healthy life is? Search no further. The Blue Zone is a sacred territory in various regions of the globe. People in these locations live to be 100. The Blue Zone residents believe in healthy lifestyles. One of the main reasons for longevity in any zone.
Why is it Called Blue Zone?
Beginning in 1999, journalist Dan Buettner, led a series of expeditions to explore the world’s longest-living populations throughout the globe. Through research, they identified five areas that fit the blue zone criteria. During their expedition, they drew blue circles around each area on their map. As a result of Buettner’s exploration, Blue Zone became the official name of the five locations.
Where are the Blue Zones?
The five locations of the Blue Zone include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California. These regions have the largest percentage of individuals 100 years of age or older. Although life expectancy for an American born today is 78.2 years, people are steadily reaching the age of 100. In fact, 70,000 Americans have already reached their 100th birthday.
The Healthiest Countries in the World
Two of the healthiest countries in the world are Switzerland and Japan. In fact, Japan comes in first place, in terms of having the lowest levels of obesity. For example, only 3.8% of men and 3.4% of women are obese. On the other hand, the United States has about 43% of obesity. UK has 35%.
The United States has the Highest Number of Centenarians
- Life expectancy in developed and developing countries are increasing at an alarming rate
- United Nations (UN) predicts the number of centenarians worldwide will rise to 573,000 this year
- The U.S. is home to 97,000 centenarians; the highest in the world
- Kane Tanaka, the world’s oldest woman, also lives in Japan. She is 117 years old.
Blue Zone Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity
Dan Buettner, set out on a quest to “reverse engineer longevity.” He began his journey by putting the lifestyle habits of the world’s healthiest, longest-lived people under the microscope.
Let’s see how he goes about examining all nine of these habits. These are the basic principles put into daily practice by centenarians living in the Blue Zones. These principles can also be major stress reducers.
1) Move Naturally:
- The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron
- They do not run marathons or join gyms
- Their environments nudge them to move
- They grow gardens
- No mechanical devices for house and yard work.
- The Okinawans call purpose “ikigai”
- Nicoyans call purpose “plan de vida.”
- This translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”
- Knowing your sense of purpose is worth 7 extra years of life.
3) Down Shift:
- Okinawans take time each day to remember their ancestors
- Adventists pray
- Ikarians take a nap
- Sardinians do happy hour
- These are ways they decrease their stress levels
- Stress leads to chronic inflammation and age-related disease.
4) 80% Rule:
- “Hara hachi bu”is the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra
- This mantra is said before meals
- Reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full
- The 20% gap could be the difference between losing or gaining weight
- Smallest meal is in the late afternoon
- Nothing else is eaten for the rest of the day.
5) Plant-Centric Diet:
- Beans, fava, black soy and lentils are the cornerstone of the centenarian diets.
- Meat, mostly pork, is eaten only five times or fewer per month
- Servings of meat are 3-4 oz.
- About size of a deck of cards.
6) Wine at 5:
- People in Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol in moderation.
- Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers
- They drink 1-2 glasses per day with friends
- Binge drinking is nonexistent.
7) Sense of Belonging:
- Most centenarians belong to some faith-based community
- Denomination does not matter
- Research shows faith-based services extend life
- Attending four times a month adds 4-14 extra years of life.
8) Loved One’s First:
- Successful centenarians put family first
- Keep aging parents/grandparents nearby
- Lowering disease and mortality rates
- Commit to a life partner
- Commitment adds 3 extra years to life
- Invest in taking care of their children
- Children, in turn, will take care of their parents later on.
9) Right Tribe:
- Longest-lived people born into social circles that support healthy behaviors
- Okinawans created “moais” groups of five friends
- These five friends commit to each other for life.
- Research from Framingham studies show that smoking, obesity happiness and loneliness are contagious
- Social networks have shaped their healthy behaviors.
Where are the Blue Zones in the United States?
As the Adventists demonstrate, the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by incorporating a Blue Zone lifestyle. This Blue Zone diet consists mostly of plant-based foods. In addition, the food intake of people in these strategic zones, is about 95% vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. They eat very little meat, dairy, sugary foods and drinks or processed foods.
So far, researchers have confirmed five official Blue Zone Communities. All of these locations have met the criteria to be in a Blue Zone. The people of the regions engage in similar lifestyle habits. For example, they consume mostly a plant-based diet. Loma Linda, California has been deemed an official Blue Zone community. The remaining four regions are outside the U.S. https://youtu.be/zTeYOLhkP9U
Barbagia Region of Sardinia
- Mountainous highlands of inner Sardinia.
- It has the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians.
- Aegean Island
- World’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality
- Lowest rates of dementia
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica:
- World’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality
- Second highest concentration of male centenarians
- More females over 70
- Longest-lived population in the world
Loma Linda, California:
- Located 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
- Known as America’s “longevity oasis”
- Population of 21,000 residents
- Mostly Seventh Day-Adventists
- They follow, a clean, vegetarian diet
Benefits of a Blue Zone Diet
Centenarians in all five Blue Zones enjoy much lower rates of chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. They eat a plant-centric diet of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. This can lower inflammation and boost the immune system.
The Danish Twin Study shows that only about 20 percent of how long a person lives is determined by genes. Actually, 80 % of longevity is influenced by lifestyle and environment. Who knows, maybe we all can reverse engineer our own longevity.
How Does Diet Affect Our Longevity?
The food that we consume effects our longevity. For example, researchers found that eating from age 20 would increase expectancy by more than a decade for women and men from the U.S., China and Europe. This study also found that changing from a Western diet to the optimal diet at age 60, could increase life expectancy by 8 years.
Final Take Home
The secret of longevity may lie in a person’s diet and lifestyle. All five Blue Zone areas share nine healthy habits. These habits lead to increased longevity, health and happiness. Aside from diet and exercise, centenarians know their purpose, know how to put family first and know how to connect with their faith-based community. Sounds like a hardy plan to me. So, what are you waiting for. You, too, can add many happy, healthy years to your life too.
Thank you for sharing this Blue Zone journey with me. If you want more information on this topic, feel free to reach out to me by email. You can also leave any questions or comments below and I will reply ASAP. With no further adieu, have a wonderful day and remember to be kind to others. Kindness matters.