Tips for Living a Long, Healthy Life from Blue Zones

People in Blue Zones live longer, healthier lives. Here's why.

You may recall hearing about Blue Zones a few years ago. They are parts of the world coined “Blue Zones” where people live longer than most on the planet. “Longevity Expert” Dan Buettner first wrote on the topic for an article for National Geographic in 2005. He has since released a book on Blue Zones in 2008.

In April of 2015, he came out with “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People”, where he “reveals how to transform your health using smart eating and lifestyle habits gleaned from new research on the diets, eating habits, and lifestyle practices of the communities he’s identified as “Blue Zones”—those places with the world’s longest-lived, and thus healthiest, people, including locations such as Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.” (Amazon)

The goal isn’t just to live longer but to live a healthy, happy, long life, devoid of health problems and ailments. A main characteristic of a Blue Zone is having a higher concentration of people who’ve lived to 100 years of age. In addition to living longer, people in these Blue Zones experience less of the illness and disease found in other developed regions of the world. Their lives are not only longer, the quality is greater.

What are the main lifestyle activities of these long-living communities? Well, they include:

1.) Healthy, plant-based diets
2.) Family-focused lives
3.) Close-knit friends and a lively social life
4.) Regular physical activity
5.) No smoking

Let’s start with the first lifestyle behavior:

1. Healthy, plant-based diets


Blue Zone Residents have a mainly Plant Based DietWhile many people in the Blue Zones are not vegetarians, their diets consist largely of plant-based food, nuts, and, in some places, wine. Many areas do not consume the over-processed foods that many in developed countries consume.

Lastly, dairy, meat, and fish are consumed in small amounts just a few times a month. Having a diet rich in the nutrients and antioxidants our bodies need makes it easier to live longer and healthier. With the right nutrition, our bodies can also work to prevent chronic diseases.

2. Family-focused lives


Blue Zone Residents Put a Large Emphasis on Friends and FamilyBuettner talks about the Blue Zones’ emphasis on family. A great emphasis is placed on family and togetherness, and family often comes first. Buettner even states that being part of a thriving family unit can add six years to your life expectancy. Other family-related factors that nurture longevity include: spending a substantial amount of time with your children; engaging in a loving, monogamous relationship; and keeping your aging parents close by. Close contact with older family members or community elders is an important variable in the longevity equation in Blue Zone groups.

3. Close-knit friends and a lively social life


People living in Blue Zones have a close group of friends their entire livesHaving a sense of belonging, or social connectedness, was helpful for people living in Blue Zones, especially in times of distress or crisis. Many people that live in Blue Zones surround themselves for their entire lives with close friends that support then during times of great emotional, physical, and financial need. Having a network of support provides many benefits, including reduced stress, reduced anxiety, a sense of purpose in the world, and a decreased likelihood of heart disease and depression. Being a member of a group or community can greatly help to increase ones longevity.

4. Regular physical activity


People Living in Blue Zones are Regularly ActiveMany people living in Blue Zones are out and about all day, actively doing something like tending herds or travelling around town. Moderate activity that is somewhat strenuous is a vital part of daily life. Walking, gardening, etc., is ingrained in their daily schedules, and they are almost always in movement of some kind. Though the level of intensity needed is debatable, being active is not. (Some research says vigorous activity or activity that is too high intensity can be bad for you, while other research says the opposite. Talk with your doctor about what is best for you.) Many studies agree, however, that moderate activity on a regular basis can help with longevity, and the opposite (sedentary lifestyles) can be rather detrimental to your health.

5. No smoking


Blue Zone Inhabitants Avoid SmokingNot smoking is a shared characteristic in Blue Zone groups, and it helps to boost their longevity. Smoking is very rare among centenarians, which may not come as a surprise. (Smoking can have very negative affects on the body, and more than not experience health complications.) Smokers in any  culture around the world live shorter lives than nonsmokers, though even people who quit after a lifetime of smoking can see some health benefits. Quitting smoking at any time is beneficial, but quitting at any age can still be rewarding in terms of health and longevity.

While these changes can seem somewhat overwhelming to people from the developed worlds who eat poorly and sit in offices, small changes can make big differences. Talk to your doctor about how to implement some of these.

To your health!

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