You May Not Live in One of the World’s 5 Blue Zones, But You Can Follow the Lifestyle
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
There’s a religious group largely based in Loma Linda, California with people who are apparently living about a decade longer than most Americans. I’m talking about Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant Christian denomination community that follows a very plant-forward diet that includes very little meat, no alcohol and focuses on getting protein from beans and nuts.
What’s particularly fascinating about this community is that they are considered one of the world’s five blue zones. The other blue zones are located in:
- Ikaria, Greece - “The island where people forget to die.”
- Sardinia, Italy - “Home to the world’s longest living men.”
- Okinawa, Japan - “Secrets of the world's longest-living women.”
- Nicoya, Costa Rica - “This Central American nation isn’t that far from the U.S. geographically, but it is way ahead of us in longevity.”
And, as mentioned, one of the five blue zones is Loma Linda, California - “A group of Americans living 10 years longer.”
The world’s blue zones were discovered by a man named Dan Buettner, who is a writer with many accolades and a National Geographic Fellow. To make a long story short, he basically discovered five areas in the world where humans are living not only the longest but also the healthiest and called them blue zones.
I know what you may be thinking. Who is he to claim such territories?! Well, apparently his work is very credible. He has partnered with municipal governments, large employers and health insurance companies to help people live the blue life. You can learn more about his work and blue zone books here. You can also learn more about how exactly these blue zones were identified by reading here. The key takeaway I want people to see is that there is something to be said about how and why people in these areas of the world are living healthily well into their 90s and even 100s.The Power 9.
The blue zones of the world have in common nine healthy lifestyle habits called the Power 9. Let’s go over these habits.
- Move Naturally.
“The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work,” according to the website for Blue Zones.
I do agree that natural movement activities such as gardening, walking or even just cleaning your home can be very beneficial to both mental and physical health.
I love this. I believe having a purpose in addition to a positive attitude can most definitely contribute to healthy and happy longevity. Remember that your purpose does not need anyone’s approval. Your purpose can be to be the best parent, the best painter or to travel as much as you can. The choice is yours.
This is stress management which, of course, is invaluable. Chronic stress can lead to chronic inflammation, and chronic inflammation is believed to be the root cause of most chronic diseases and even depression.
- 80% Rule.
This involves eating only until your stomach is 80% full. So many of us are taught, especially when we go out to eat, to eat until our stomachs are so full that we are practically uncomfortable. This is not healthy and can, not surprisingly, lead to a lot of unnecessary weight gain. It might take some time, but try being more in tune with your body when you are eating. Are you full enough or just wanting to eat more because it is there or tastes good?
- Plant Slant.
“Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards,” according to Blue Zones.
Diet is very individualistic, and you should always speak with a competent healthcare professional regarding what is personally best for you, however, I do believe so many of us that do eat meat could afford to eat a lot less of it and fill our plates with more nutrient-dense fruits and veggies.
- Wine @5
You can read more about what this means here, but this essentially means moderate or drink little alcohol. I couldn't agree more. Alcohol causes inflammation and depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals.
“Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy,” reports Blue Zones.
I wrote some blogs about how church can be beneficial to health. I think as long as you create a positive community around you, you can reap the potential benefits and contribute to healthy longevity.
- Loved Ones First.
This one is interesting.
“Successful centenarians in the blue zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.),” (Blue Zones).
Furthermore, “They commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes).”
I think the main message from this is that care should be communal and sometimes cyclical. It also, in my opinion, pairs with Belong. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It also takes a village to live a long, healthy life.
- Right Tribe.
“The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors…,” according to Blue Zones.
“Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.”
I could not agree more with this. If you have a friend that always wants to eat fast food and drink alcohol with you, I’m sorry but this friend is not going to help you live a long and healthy life. Be mindful of your tribe and if there are people and family members in your tribe that practice unhealthy behaviors, learn to set healthy boundaries. At the end of the day, this is all you can do along with modeling the healthy behaviors you follow. Perhaps you will be their source of inspiration and change.
As you can see there are not many blue zones in this world, but we can certainly live the blue zone lifestyle and increase our chances of living to a healthy 100! If there is one more thing I could add to the Power 9 (making it a Power 10) it would be to undergo routine nutrient testing. As we age, it may be more challenging for your body to absorb certain nutrients. Getting a nutritional test is key in ensuring your body has adequate amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients.
If you are not nutritionally balanced, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
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