Cindy DeCarolis

Revisiting Blue Zones

Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, was originally published in 2008 by National Geographic Books. The book is based on National Geographic Fellow Dan Buttner’s research into communities around the world with the highest concentration of people living long, healthy lives into their eighties, nineties, and even into their hundreds.

Last month, National Geographic reprinted a previous special edition of the magazine titled Blue Zones, The Science of Living Longer. I had read the book previously. However, it had been many years, and this was a good refresher of the principles of Blue Zone living, which have stood the test of time.

You may be wondering why these geographic regions are called “Blue Zones.” There is a simple and unscientific reason for this – as Buettner and his colleagues were researching and identifying the communities they would study they used blue ink to circle them on a map.

They identified five Blue Zones: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra region, Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California, where the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists live; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. While the lifestyles of people living in the Blue Zones vary slightly, there are commonalities. Residents of the original Blue Zones practice nine healthy habits that help them live longer, healthier, happier lives.

  1. The foods they consume vary based on their agricultural environments and what thrives in that environment. In each zone the diet consists mostly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. They eat limited amounts of meat, fish, and dairy. When they do consume dairy, it is usually full fat from the milk of goats or sheep. In other words – the diet is plant-based. In addition, they consume no processed foods and eat sweets very infrequently, using local honey to sweeten beverages and foods.
  2. They move naturally throughout their days. No need to go to the gym because their environments encourage walking everywhere. They still use hand tools and complete tasks around the home, yard, and garden themselves. A few easy things you can do to bring more movement into your day include mow your lawn with a push mower, disconnect your garage door opener, lose your TV remote, and if you have a dog, walk it instead of letting it out to roam a fenced yard. Minor changes that increase your movement can burn up to an extra 150 calories per day.
  3. In all of the Blue Zones people have a reason for waking up in the morning, a sense of purpose that gives them something to live for besides work. Research shows that having purpose may increase life expectancy by up to seven years.
  4. People who live the longest have found ways to relax and reduce their stress. In Okinawa they take time each day to remember their ancestors, the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians enjoy a glass or two of a distinctive garnet-red wine made from local Grenache grapes.
  5. In Okinawa, Japan, people mindfully stop eating when they feel 80 percent full. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you are full. By stopping when you feel 80 percent full you will consume fewer calories at each meal, resulting in weight loss.
  6. People in all of the Blue Zones, even some Adventists, regularly consume alcohol – one to two glasses a day with friends and / or food. Moderate drinkers tend to live longer than those who never drink.
  7. Social circles play a significant role in longevity. For example, Okinawans have moais, groups of five friends who commit to each other for life. Social circles support healthy habits, as well as provide emotional support and people you can count on for help in times of crisis.
  8. Research shows that being a member of a faith-based community and attending weekly services adds four to 14 years to life. The denomination doesn’t appear to make a difference.
  9. Centenarians living in the Blue Zones put family first. They give their children love and time and in turn, children care for their elders. Additionally, sharing life with a partner can increase life expectancy by up to three years.

Buettner has created Blue Zones by collaborating with whole communities to weave these nine principles into the fabric of the community. You can take the first step to creating a Blue Zone by following the nine principles to make small, sustainable changes in your own home. First step – make your kitchen healthier. Buettner identified the four best foods to always have on hand and the four worst foods that you should avoid.

Four Always
100 percent whole wheat bread
Nuts
Beans
Fruits

Four to Avoid
Sugar-sweetened beverages
Salty snacks
Processed meats
Packaged sweets

At Blissful Balance LLC, our mission is to help you to live life healthier. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Contact me at cindydecarolis62@gmail.com for a complimentary consultation. You can also visit doTerra to purchase essential oils.