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

Secrets of longevity: what we can all learn from the five 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?


Thus, in the first place, an important genetic factor was found, to which a series of indispensable elements were added. But it was not enough with the predisposition of our genome, but it was necessary to add elements such as good weather, having important natural areas, healthy food available to the population, that it is a place where peace reigns, that is lived in the community and where there is good access to the health system.

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).


The common thing of all of them is characterized by the absence of ultra-processed, the pattern based on real food and specifically with plant foods for daily consumption (fruits, vegetables, vegetables, nuts, legumes, etc.). Depending on the geography, the environment provides each population with some or other foods, for example in Sardinia beans or in Okinawa algae or fish, but what it does not provide is the consumption of products rich in refined flours, with added sugars, industrial oils. refined, additives, etc.

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. 

Physical activity refers to any level of activity above rest and leads to movement and an increase in energy expenditure. It is an activity carried out spontaneously during life that represents a significant energy expenditure and can be classified into occupational, sports, conditional, domestic, or other activities. Exercise, on the other hand, is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and has the ultimate or intermediate goal of improving or maintaining physical fitness.

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. 

As social beings that we are, loneliness and social isolation do not suit us very well and reduce our life expectancy. The inhabitants of the blue zones have strong social ties, not with an extensive network of contacts or "friends" on Facebook, but with family, friends, and neighbors who count on the fingers of their hands but maintain a constant close and close relationship. durable. These small "tribes" are characterized by having a purpose for living. In Okinawa they call it ikigai, "or reason for existing of each one of us".

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.

Lack of sleep and rest is directly related to diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases. Loma Linda Adventists spend one day resting and going to Mass, Okinawans take a few moments a day to remember their ancestors, and Icarians take a nap. It is clear that much of the stress suffered in Western societies is due to overstepping the accelerator. Perhaps we should imitate these populations who take life more calmly.

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. Let us start changing our habits and we will soon make a difference.

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

Victoria Thais

A trip to India was all it took for Victoria to realise that meditation is not a fancy word for sitting around in silence. It truly changed Victoria’s life to a less stressful and more mindful one. Now a freelance consultant and journalist, Victoria joined KOKO to share her knowledge on those little things that are life so much better, and cosier.+ info

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