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- Written by Joe Jackson
Everybody wants to live longer, healthier and happier lives but the saturation of information about how to do this often dilutes this message. Who should we trust? Why should we trust them? Is this method realistic with my lifestyle? Dan Buettner, national geographic explorer, took up this mantle in 2005 identifying the five areas in the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest.
His book ‘The Blue Zones’, not only shows where these areas are but also provides the secrets to how they achieve longevity. While a lot of these are embedded within their culture the fundamental principles can be adapted and adopted to work with and improve our lifestyle.
1) IKARIA, GREECE
Ikaria is a Greek island renowned for its low rates of middle-age mortality and dementia. Research links the longevity to the Mediterranean diet. (1)
2) OKINAWA, JAPAN
Okinawa is a Japanese prefecture between Taiwan and Japan's mainland. Small support networks make up the cornerstone of society leading to less stress and loneliness and high levels of happiness.
3) OGLIASTRAREGION, SARDINIA
More widely known as a beautiful holiday destination the Ogliastraregion had the world’s highest concentration of centurion men. This is more widely attributed to the low-protein diet they adopt.
4) LOMA LINDA, CALIFORNIA
Loma Linda is a small city located in the heart of California. The 20,000 residents subsist on biblical diet of grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, causing many to live 10 years more than the average American.
5) NICOYAPENINSULA, COSTA RICA
The Nicoya Peninsula makes up the 5th of the original blue zones. They boast the world’s lowest rate of middle-age mortality. They attribute this is to regular exercise and strong faith-based communities.
While they all have their unique culture and ways of living what are some of the secrets of longevity that they share.
#1 The importance of relationships
As aforementioned the residents of the Nicoya Peninsula and more famously the residents of Okinawa in Japan have community networks that help reduce the burden of stress and loneliness, known causes of health conditions. Studies have been done that have looked at social connectedness and longevity. One particular study conducted by Professor Lisa Berkman of Harvard University found that the type of connection was irrelevant. Whether it was a spousal relationship or a tight-knit friend group, all that mattered was the bond the group shared. (3)
#2 The importance of diet
We have seen how important diet is to longevity but what do their diets mainly consist of? Most of those who live longer restrict the number of calories they have daily, and their diets are mainly plant-based. Blue Zoners eat portions of 3 to 4 ounces of meat just five times a month, on average. (4)
#3 The importance of movement
They do not participate in conventional exercise like a HIIT class or a Joe Wicks' morning special. People who live in the blue zones are however always on the move. This helps to ensure that their weight is kept at a minimum, and that they also reap the benefits of doing regular exercise.
The lives of these people can seem a million miles away from ours (and not just geographically). However, there are a number of small changes that we can incorporate easily in our daily lives which will help with ensuring a healthier and happier lifestyle.
In terms of our diet, we should slow down when we are eating. Not only will it allow us to increase our skills of conversing it will also allow our body to respond to cues, which tell us we are no longer hungry.
Schedule in time every week to see family or friends. Whether that is going for a drink after work, meeting them for a coffee or attending a fitness class together it is important that make time for social connectivity. JulianneHolt-Lundstad at Brigham Young University found that the face-to-face interactions you have on a daily basis are one of the strongest predictors of how long you’ll live. (5)
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