Blue Zones are regions around the world where people tend to live longer, healthier lives than the global average. These areas have drawn the attention of researchers and health enthusiasts because of their high concentration of centenarians (people who live to 100 or older) and lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. The term "Blue Zones" was coined by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and author who studied these regions and identified common lifestyle and cultural factors that contribute to longevity. He currently has a short-running Netflix special called, "Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones" which I have watched the entire series and can discuss.
As of today's date, there are now five recognized Blue Zones:
Ikaria, Greece: Located in the eastern Aegean Sea, Ikaria is known for its high percentage of centenarians. The diet in Ikaria is rich in vegetables, legumes, olive oil, and herbs. Regular physical activity, strong social connections, and a relaxed pace of life are also important factors in the longevity of its residents.
Okinawa, Japan: Okinawa is famous for having one of the highest life expectancies in the world. The traditional Okinawan diet includes lots of vegetables, tofu, and fish, with an emphasis on portion control. Additionally, a strong sense of purpose, social support, and an active lifestyle contribute to the health and longevity of its inhabitants.
Sardinia, Italy: Sardinia, particularly the region of Nuoro, has a significant population of centenarians. The traditional Sardinian diet is rich in whole grains, beans, vegetables, and goat's milk. Strong family bonds, a sense of community, and a physically demanding lifestyle have been identified as important factors for longevity here.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula has a higher concentration of centenarians than the rest of Costa Rica. The traditional diet includes beans, corn, and tropical fruits. Residents also maintain an active lifestyle through daily physical work and a strong sense of purpose.
Loma Linda, California, USA: Loma Linda is unique among the Blue Zones because it's not a remote location but a community in the United States. What sets Loma Linda apart is its high concentration of Seventh-day Adventists, who follow a plant-based diet, practice regular exercise, and emphasize rest on the Sabbath. Their strong sense of faith and community contributes to their longevity.
Singapore: Considered a "constructed" blue zone, this country has been engineering a blue zone. This is a fairly new Blue zone and is one that is not based on faith or tradition. This highly industrialized nation has changed a few rules in order to make being able to live to 100 feasible. One of the many rules put into place is increased taxes on auto ownership and the increased amount for a tank of gas. Another is increasing the amount of green space throughout the country.
Common characteristics and practices found in Blue Zones include:
Plant-based diets: Most Blue Zone residents primarily consume plant-based diets rich in vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Meat is often eaten in moderation. ( The current exception is the latest blue zone which has not established a selected diet.)
Social connections: Strong social networks and a sense of belonging are crucial to the well-being of Blue Zone inhabitants.
Physical activity: Regular, low-intensity physical activity, such as walking or gardening, is a common part of daily life in these areas.
Moderation in eating: Portion control is a key aspect of the Blue Zone diet, preventing overeating.
Sense of purpose: Having a sense of purpose or reason for living is linked to better mental and physical health in these regions. In the documentary this includes ones faith or spirituality.
Stress reduction: Practices like meditation, napping, and regular downtime help manage stress.
It's important to note that while these common factors are observed in Blue Zones, they don't guarantee long life, and individual genetics play a role as well. Nevertheless, studying Blue Zones has provided valuable insights into the lifestyle factors that may contribute to increased longevity and overall well-being. Researchers and health advocates continue to explore how people in other regions can adopt these principles to improve their own health and quality of life.
Now, why and how does this reflect September? Currently, the United States is highly rated for vanity but also decreased health. The current life expectancy is dropping here in the United States. Diseases such as diabetes and cancer are on the rise. There has been an increase in demand for health living, an increase in cross fit studios and gyms, and yet we are still poorly aging and dying prematurely.
My own personal experience with aging is an interesting and somewhat normal story. Both my parents have succumbed to cancer. My father passed away when I was 25 from lung cancer mets and my mother passed away when I was 32 from breast cancer mets. Both of them were diabetics. My mother was overweight and had high blood pressure. They were not married. My mother was deep in her faith and became a minister. My father continued to work second shift in a factory, smoked cigarettes, and drank alcohol socially three times a week. My mother's mother, on the other hand, is currently 92 years old and the only thing that has slowed her down from moving was getting on dialysis at 88 years old. She still has her memory but she has to take frequent naps and is restricted to a wheelchair from a fall last year. Right now, she is the longest living relative. Now, I am 43 years old and the way my parents were and they path they led are not the same for myself. I am currently vegan, yogi, walker, somewhat of a runner, into dancing, and working on this lovely practice where I can be healthy and help others get healthier.
Currently, in our office, we teach healthy living. We do the footwork in order to find out where are you deficient and where you need more help. We can help you find healthier alternatives to feeling better. If we don't find the cure, we can refer you to someone who can. I hope we can be a local ( and non-local) detective to find out what is out of alignment. Welcome September! Let's dive into healthy living! Welcome to better aging.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2022/20220831.htm (was quoted earlier in text)
Next entry: Women and life changes