Do blue zones hold the secrets to longevity?

Liz Miller

Do blue zones hold the secrets to longevity?

Humans have always strived to live longer and better. What makes that possible for some people with more ease than others is ongoing research. While this was often a question for research it came to the forefront when National Geographic’s cover story for November 2005 was “The Secrets of Long Life”  by Dan Buettner which covered the regions now termed blue zones. 

What are blue zones?

The term blue zone came about from research done by Michel Poulain, Giovanni Pes, et al. for the Experimental Gerontology on regions they circled in blue (blue zones) where longevity was higher than average. Initially, they were researching villages in Sardinia, Italy where there were high concentrations of male centenarians. Buettner went on to elaborate on this research and added an additional 4 locations. 

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Do blue zones hold the secrets to longevity?
Do blue zones hold the secrets to longevity?
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Where are blue zones?

In his books, Buettner expanded the Blue Zones to include 5 key locations. 

  1. Sardinia, Italy - the mountain villages here had some of the highest portions of people who reached 100 
  2. Nicoya, Costa Rica - where small villages and farms find hard-working older adults reaching the age of 90 or above 
  3. Icaria, Greece - research here on this island showed that almost 1 out of every 3 people make it to their 90s
  4. Okinawa, Japan - these islands have another group of individuals who have outlived others in their region. 
  5. Loma Linda, California  - The Seventh Day Adventists community in this region are some of the longest-living North American people.   

Many of the residents of these places suffer less from common aging diseases like cancer, heart disease, and dementia all while being able to enjoy more years of good health.

What makes blue zones special?

People in these regions tend to live healthier and longer lives than those in other regions. According to Buettner’s book, there are four main things people in these zones do differently. 

  1. Move regularly not just with exercise but through daily exercise in regular habits like gardening, farming, and other tasks throughout the day.  
  2. Live with purpose, they regularly get up to attend events, the farm, or accomplish tasks.
  3. Strong social support from friends, family, and the community helps to make life flow more smoothly. 
  4. Make the healthy choice the easy choice instead of one of many options  

How to create more blue zone healthy choices in your life? 

Creating a healthy lifestyle is about changing habits not just about doing something once or twice. If you want to live healthier and incorporate many of the same healthy habits of blue zone residents you need to change your lifestyle to reflect that.

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Social engagement

Grandmother hugging grandchildren.

Social aspects are essential to giving us community, purpose, and helping to maintain mental health. People feel supported and a part of a community where they have strong social ties. Family come first and is a central part of one’s life

  • Life purpose from tending the farm to watching grandchildren each person has a purpose
  • Socially engaged - people of all ages are socially active and integrated into the community
  • Participate in spirituality or religious communities

Lifestyle

Choosing healthy habits that limit our stress, keep us active,  and don’t add toxins to our bodies helps us to maintain our physical and mental health. Strong physical and mental health makes it easier to fight off illnesses and often helps to prevent some of the negative aspects associated with aging. 

  • Smoke-free population
  • Regular moderate physical activity from walking to see neighbors to gardening and other activities
  • Limited stress 

Healthy diet

A plant-based diet is one aspect of increased longevity in blue zones.

You get out of your body what you put into it. Eating well makes sure you have antioxidants, manage cholesterol, and keep your sugar levels balanced. This can help to prevent a lot of negative diseases associated with aging like diabetes, heart disease, and others. 

  • A plant-based diet with many people eating vegetarian diets focused on fruits, legumes, and vegetables
  • Moderate caloric intake without overindulging in sugars and sweets
  • Moderate alcohol intake usually wine-based

Take the time to explore more about the blue zones and their lifestyle with our special blue zone series. See how you can make healthier choices a part of your daily life! 

Learn more about the Blue Zones

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