Aging the blue zone way

Dan Beuttner coined the term “Blue Zones,” which refers to the lifestyle of the world’s longest living communities; centenarians. They are among the oldest and healthiest people in the world, living with little to no chronic health issues. He is also the author of the book, Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who Live the Longest.

So many of the Blue Zone’s living philosophies resonate deeply with me. I grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist household, tucked away in the Caribbean countryside, where I experienced some similar lifestyle practices. My grandmother, unbeknownst to her, engaged in many of these practices. I know it’s the reason – despite her trials and tribulations – she has so much vitality at eighty seven years old.

Now as I’m aging, perimenopausing and approaching the second half of my life, the desire for more of this type of lifestyle feels urgent. Pursuing my purpose, engaging in restorative practices, growing and tending to a garden, finding my true tribe, living a stress less life are the things that my heart is yearning for.

The 5 Blue zones

  1. Icaira, Greece
  2. Nicoya, Costa Rica
  3. Sardinia, Italy
  4. Okinawa, Japan
  5. Loma Linda, California, USA

According to a study by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, these are the main factors that contribute to centenarians longevity and vitality.

They Move Naturally

That means they don’t do strenuous exercises. Rather they have gardens they tend to, take walks around their neighborhoods, walk their animals, do work around their homes or take part in activities with friends and family.

Have Purpose

Purpose is important in the Blue Zones. The Okinawans call it Ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida. Both means, “why I wake up in the morning.” It’s said that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to 7 years of extra life expectancy.~ AJOLM

Downshift

Stress is not a normal part of their existence. They have rituals to manage stress, acknowledge their ancestors or prayer daily and rest.

80 Percent Rule

People living in the Blue zones tend to have their smallest and last meal in the early evening. In Okinawa, there is the 80% rule, Hara hachi bu (A Confucian mantra) that encourages people to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full.

“The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it.”

Belong

A sense of belonging and being a part of a community, matters. Studies from the AJLM found that most of the people they interviewed from the Blue Zones belonged to a faith based community. Denomination was not a factor. They go on to add that Research shows attending faith-based services 4 times per month will add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.

The Right Tribe

Being a part of social circles that supports healthy behaviors is key to centenarians longevity and vitality. Okinawans created moais—groups of 5 friends that committed to each other for life.

The article notes that research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

Loved Ones First

Blue Zone families prioritize their loved ones. Parents invest time and care into their children’s lives, while aging parents and grandparents are kept close, sometimes even in the home. I’d like to add that self should be included in this pillar.

Plant Slant

Beans is a big staple in their diet, and several times per month they enjoy small servings of meat, which includes pork.

Drink Wine

Many in the Blue Zones (not Seventh Day Adventists) drink wine up to twice daily with food or with friends. And not just any wine will do – Sardinian Cannonau wine seem to be be the way to go.

This goes to show you, basic is sometimes better and it doesn’t have to mean boring. The proof is in the people of the Blue Zones and folks like my grandmother.

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