Secrets of longevity: what we can all learn from Blue Zones

Living long and living well is the ambition we all have. If we could sign a dream contract right now it would be this: live to be a hundred and be happy.

Yet this simple human desire is not easily fulfilled. In fact, in most parts of the planet, we live way less than 100 years and don't seem to be that happy. 

But there are some regions in the world where it is possible to become a healthy and happy centenarian. Obviously, they astonish scientists who wonder what we can all learn from these places, called Blue ZonesThe term was coined by an American National Geographic Fellow, Dan Buettner, who spent years researching the way Blue Zone residents live. 

Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+

The common lifestyle features of people in Blue Zones interest scientists who want to know why they live such long healthy lives.

1. On the map

Okinawa Island

Many years ago, a group of journalists and demographers decided to study a place considered to be a longevity hotspot- Okinawa. Within months Loma Linda in California (USA), Ikaria in Greece, Sardinia in Italy, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica joined the list. People here live very long and yet very healthy lives. What is their secret?

2. Some common points

Eating mostly beans, fruit and vegetables is the key to longevity

While all completely different in terms of geography, climate, and culture, these places share some common characteristics. It is believed that they contribute to the health, happiness, and longevity of Blue Zones populations. 

What is most intriguing about these shared characteristics is that none is beyond the reach of the rest of humanity. But they do require a new approach to life.

We list some simple habits that lead to a long and healthy life. 

3. Food

Nuts and beans, key to longevity

Blue Zones residents have mainly plant-based diets and consume beans, fruit, vegetables, and pulses daily. They eat until about 80% full and drink mainly water, tea, and a moderate amount of red wine. Meat is only consumed during celebrations and they stay away from dairy. They also consume very nutritious foods:  leafy greens, sweet potatoes, beans and pulses, miso, kefir (these last two being an excellent source of probiotics).

4. Staying active 

Staying active, key to longevity

Incredibly, most people Buettner met still did gardening, harvesting, and walked everywhere. Their simple lives mean they have no other option but to move. This may not sound practical for us,  but we can opt to walk or bike instead of driving or stand instead of sitting at work all day and then hitting the gym for 45 minutes. 

5. Purpose in life

Purpose in life, key to longevity

Another common characteristic is that Blue Zones residents all feel that they have a purpose in life. Whether supporting their families and friends, a job within their community, or a hobby. Essentially, knowing exactly why you wake up every morning. 

6. Daily happy hour

Give yoursef some downtime

Stress exists no matter where we live. What makes a Blue Zones resident different are daily rituals that reduce it. Give yourself some downtime. Read a book, meditate, take a nap. Whatever it takes for you to decompress.

7. Bring a little Blue Zone magic into your life

Reaching old age feeling healthy and happy

All in all, while we may not live on a tropical island or a sunny Italian village, there is plenty to do to improve our chances of reaching old age feeling healthy and happy. 

Move a little more, eat more plants, find a hobby, spend time with friends and you’re half way there.

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