Longevity Is A Lifestyle: Learning From The Blue Zones

blue zones

The search for optimal ways to increase longevity never ends. We try every elixir, supplement, and superfood that we can get our hands on. However, worldwide, a handful of populations have already mastered the art of effortless longevity.

These areas, Blue Zones, have general populations that commonly live over 100 years. Five exist across the world:

Ikaria, Greece

The Mediterranean diet, hailed as one of the healthies in the world, consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil. Ikarians also grow and consume wild herbs such as rosemary, sage, and oregano. Goat milk is a staple of their diet, instead of cow’s.

Inhabitants of Ikaria almost entirely eradicated dementia and other age-related diseases common in the Western world. One in three individuals live to 90.

Their lifestyle consists of red wine, exercise through daily gardening and yardwork, naps, occasional fasting, and a slow-paced lifestyle with lots of time allocated towards friends and family.

Loma Linda, California

Surprisingly, America houses one of the five Blue Zones. Home to a small population of Seventh-day Adventists, Loma Linda’s population lives as much as a decade longer than the rest of the United States.

Adventists practice a 24-hour Sabbath. Allocating an extended amount of time towards relaxation, spirituality, and family plays a major role in their well-being.

Moderate exercise is also a staple of this population, they regularly practice daily walks instead of vigorous exercise such as lifting or long-distance cardio. Low-impact movement reduces the risk of heart disease and various cancers.

Their diet consists of significant amounts of water, little meat and lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Due to small and early dinners paired with regular movement, the population hosts a collectively low body mass index (BMI).

The church encourages members to give back to the community through volunteering. As a result, this sense of purpose fosters a happier disposition among the Adventists.

Sardinia, Italy

Unsurprisingly, another Mediterranean area graces the list. According to the Blue Zones’ website, this area has nearly 10 times more centenarians per capita than the U.S.  Sardinia remains isolated from much of the world.

Similar to the previous populations, Sardinians eat a mostly plant-based diet. Staples of their meals include whole-grain bread, beans, vegetables, fruit, and mastic oil. They also consume sheep’s and goat’s milk instead of cow’s. They consume wine, Cannonau, moderately. Cannonau wine contains significantly more flavonoids than other wines.

Like other zones, family and respect for elders are prioritized in this community.

Movement is important but not rigorous. The area is home to many shepherds who get their exercise through walking around the fields each day.

Okinawa, Japan

Women of Okinawa live longer than any other women in the world. The population live lives filled with purpose, family, and (of course) mainly plant-based meals.

Staples of the Okinawan diet include: vegetables, sweet potatoes, tofu, miso, goya and small amounts of pork. Due to the fermented soy in their diet they have optimal intestinal health.

Gardening maintains a large role in their day-to-day lives. This not only provides fresh vegetables, but also acts as an outlet for stress and a form of low-impact exercise. They also harvest mugwort, ginger, and turmeric which they use medicinally.

Family and friends remain important throughout their lives. The population’s “moai,” includes a reliable group of friends and family who individuals remain close with their entire lives.

Lastly, Okinawans maintain a strong sense of purpose called “ikigai.” They have a thick skin and learn from struggles while also not dwelling on them. The elder generations remain spry and often maintain the company of the younger members of the population.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

The only Blue Zone of Latin America maintains many commonalities with the world’s other four.

Like those of Loma Linda, Nicoyans’ smallest meal of the day is dinner which they also consumer early in the evening. Their water contains high amounts of calcium, leading to low rates of heart disease. The Nicoyan diet mainly consists of fortified maize and beans.

Their “plan de vida,” reason to live, provides motivation and purpose for members of this community. It harbors positivity and vigor amongst older populations.

Exercise consists of daily chores and physical work in the sun.

Connecting to their roots and community remains very important to these Costa Ricans. Visiting neighbors and family occurs daily.

The Shared Secrets of Longevity

Obvious commonalities exist between the five Blue Zones. The official online Blue Zone resource lists these nine tenants as the over-encompassing secrets to longevity:

  1. Move Naturally
  2. Purpose
  3. Find Ways to Relieve Stress Each Day
  4. Eat Until You’re 80% Full
  5. Plant-Based Diet
  6. Moderate Wine Everyday
  7. Faith-Based Routines
  8. Prioritize Loved Ones
  9. Find and Maintain A Strong Group of Friends

Overall, the greatest aspect of the Blue Zone lifestyle is simplicity. These areas demonstrate that wellness doesn’t have to be complicated and mainly operates as a product of intuition and tradition. Try incorporating some of the above practices into your daily life.

Cover image Balanced Achievement

Also published on Medium.