THE LESSONS WE CAN LEARN FROM BLUE ZONES
No time to read the full article? Scroll down to the bottom for an ‘In a Nutshell’ synopsis.
Most people would not harbor a desire to live to a hundred years old if that life was not one which was vibrant, healthy and independent If the later years of our lives could be lived with physical and mental good health that desire to live on to centenarian status might become far more attractive .
In 2005 educator Dan Buettner wrote an article in National Geographic magazine entitled ‘The Secrets of a Long Life’. In this article he shared the discovery of lifestyle and environmental similarities across five geographic locations, which led to a significant rise in the life expectancy of the inhabitants. He labelled these ‘Blue Zones’. These were-
Okinawa- Japan, Sardinia – Italy, Nicoya (Costa Rica) , Icaria (Greece), Loma Linda (California)
It has to be noted that in Loma Linda the section of the population identified was Seventh- Day Adventists.
What lessons can we take forward from this research?
- Whole food, plant based diet
All of the identified zones had specific similarities in their food choices. Given prominence were, nuts and seeds, beans, vegetables, fruits, herbs, high quality fats such as olive oil, grass- fed goat milk and cheeses made at home, whole grains, fermented products such as kefir and yoghurt. These health promoting foods provide the consumer with the nutrients to boost their immune system , fight disease and tackle inflammation. The presence of fibre within this diet is also highly beneficial- eliminating toxins and cleansing the digestive system. The diet also interesting included regular, moderate amounts of alcohol. Specifically red wine. 1- 2 glasses. This could not however be saved up and consumed in bulk over weekends! (Giving with one hand and taking away with another)
None of the diets included processed foods. Consumption amount was tied to the meal – ie breakfast like a king, lunch like a lord and dine like a pauper and most groups were found to stop eating when 80 percent full as such preventing unnecessary weight gain.
The amount of meat eaten too was found to be key to the success of longevity. Most of the groups ate this infrequently and in smaller portions.
2 Life Purpose
When you wake in the morning does you life have a clear sense of purpose? If it does then you are well on your way to living a good 7 years longer than those without this vision. An 11 year NIH study conducted by Dr Robert N. Butler and his colleagues showed a correlation between longevity of life and a pronounced understanding of why you are on this planet. They studied healthy people Having a positive outlook, taking time to express gratitude and surrounding yourself with like minded people all contribute to living a longer more satisfying life. Some Blue Zones residents have even allocated words to name this with the Okinawans calling it “ikigai “and Nicoyans calling this purpose ” plan de vida. ”
It is also though that having this steadfast purpose may provide preventative measures against arthritis, strokes and even dementia.
3 Moderate Physical Activity
Within these unique Blue Zones it has been found that attention to moderate physical exercise is another of the beneficial factors to living a long and healthy life. Most of the the exercise is mindless in the sense that it is integrated into the inhabitants daily lives. It is interwoven into their work and socialisation times. For example, walking a considerable to distance to visit a friend or working the land as part of their jobs. However the 7th Day Adventists make no secret of their time in the gym!
4 Stress Management, Spirituality and Importance of Family
Also noted was the Blue Zones inhabitants ability to manage stress. Stress has long been known as the ‘silent killer’. It inhibits our body’s immune systems and reduces our abilities to fend off disease and infection. The emphasis that the Blue Zones populations place on spiritual engagement, family interaction and socialising is seen as a major contribution in the battle to reduce stress.
IN A NUTSHELL
The Blue Zones are 5 geographical areas which display similar attributes which can be assigned to longevity of a healthy and purposeful life.
Key areas to note are-
Plant Based Diet ( not necessarily vegan)
Having a purpose in life
Moderate alcohol consumption (typically wine)
Effective stress management
Connections – spiritual, friends and family
Disclaimer-The information in my blog posts are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.There is no intention for the information to be medical advice.