By Asha Kreiling
In the U.S., the average life expectancy is about 78 years. Living past 90, 95, or 100 years seems almost inconceivable, but in some parts of the world, century-long lifespans are considered the norm. There are five of these places in the world, called Blue Zones, where inhabitants are healthier, happier and live considerably longer than the rest of us whippersnappers.
The concept of Blue Zones was inspired by the research of Gianni Pes, a Belgian demographer, and Michel Poulain, an Italian physician. They discovered that a province in the Italian island of Sardinia had a higher concentration of male centenarians (people who live to or over the age of 100 years) than any other place in the world. During their research, the two men began drawing blue circles around regions on the map with the highest longevity, and began referring to these areas as Blue Zones. Their work was later expanded by the National Geographic researchers and Dan Buettner, who wrote a book about Blue Zones and started an organization to help others live long, healthy lives inspired by Blue Zone cultures. Visit here for more information http://www.bluezones.com/
Buettner has identified these 5 unique locations as Blue Zones:
1. Sardinia, Italy: Sardinia is home to mostly farmers and shepherds, with a high concentration of centenarians and supercentenarians. Sardinians primarily consume a plant-based diet rich in fava beans and barley, and accent meals with goat’s milk and meat. They drink red wine, walk long distances, and value family.
2. Ikaria, Greece: Ikarians are three times more likely to reach age 90 than are people in the United States. Chronic disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease are rare. Ikarians eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. They also drink lots of herbal tea, wine, and goat milk. They lead active lives with traditional farming or fishing jobs, but they make time for regular naps.
3. Okinawa, Japan: Once called “the land of immortals,” Okinawa has the highest concentration in the world of people aged 100 and over. Okinawans experience less cancer, heart disease and dementia than Americans. They eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, cereals and soy, with only small amounts of fish, dairy and meat. They make an effort not to overeat, and they spend a lot of time growing their own herbs and food. They keep strong family ties and close friends.
4. Nicoya, Costa Rica: Nicoya is an isolated peninsula, with the lowest rates of cancer in Costa Rica. Middle-aged residents are four times more likely to reach age 90 than are Americans. Nicoyans sleep a full 8 hours, grow their own food, and live active, community-engaged lives. Their diets are rich in rice, beans, corn, and tropical fruits.
5. Loma Linda, California: 60 miles east of Los Angeles, Loma Linda is home to thousands of Seventh-day Adventists, the longest-living people in America. Residents have lower risks of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease compared to the average American. Members of this faith-based community are typically vegetarians who don’t drink alcohol or smoke. They keep tight social networks and volunteer often.
These five Blue Zones have simple lifestyle commonalities that can be lessons for longevity. They grow their own food and eat primarily plant-based diets; they engage in constant, moderate physical activity; and they maintain close social and familial ties. With the healthiest, longest-living people in the world, they must be doing something right.
Thanks to Brian Myers and Farmer Bill in San Diego, CA for inspiring this article.