An American writer and explorer named Dan Buettner published a book in 2008 entitled The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. This book details information about five regions in the world in which people lived for an unusually long time, often over 100 years. These five regions, which Buettner named the “Blue Zones,” are:
- The Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy
- The tropical islands of Okinawa in Japan
- Loma Linda, California (home of the Seventh Day Adventists religious group)
- The small island of Ikaria in Greece
- Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
Understanding that only 20 percent of how long a person lives is determined by genetics, Buettner and his research team began to monitor the diets and lifestyles of these Blue Zone people in the hope of discovering the secrets of their longevity. Here is what he found common among these groups of people and what we can do to enjoy a long quality of life:
Move and Exercise Naturally
These people, who often move for more than five hours per day, perform natural movements for exercise, such as walking, gardening and working around the house. Extreme exercise, such as weight lifting and marathon running was non-existent.
Eat a Plant-based Diet
Their diets are high in fruits, vegetables, and legumes and low in fat, meat, refined sugar and processed foods.
80 Percent Rule
They stop eating when their stomach feels 80 percent full to prevent over-eating.
They Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, especially if they share those drinks with friends. One or two glasses of wine per day with food was common.
Stress leads to chronic inflammation, which is associated with every major disease. The world’s longest-living people have routines to reduce stress.
Why do you wake up in the morning? Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to an extra seven years of life expectancy.
Find The Right Tribe
The world’s longest living people live or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors. Build and surround your social network with people with similar values that you trust.
Belong or Participate in a Spiritual Community
Attending faith-based services four times per month, no matter the denomination, adds up to 14 years of life expectancy.
Loved Ones First
These people put their families first, which is a hallmark among the healthiest and longest living people. Put your loved-ones first and make time for them.
The Blue Zones offers evidence that our lifestyle choices have a profound effect on the quality and length of our lives. Buettner informs us that studies of twins in the Netherlands have revealed that lifestyle factors make up 75% of how long we live, leaving the remaining 25% to genetics. “To make it to age 100, you have to have won the genetic lottery,” Buettner concludes. “But most of us have the capacity to make it well into our early 90s and largely without chronic disease. As the [centenarians] demonstrate, the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by adopting a Blue Zones lifestyle.”