Posted on Jan 26, 2024, 5 p.m.
Around the globe, people are living longer healthier lives than ever before, which is evident in the number of centenarians; in 1840 there were 90 in the USA, that’s 1 for every 189,000 people but now there are more than 53,000 which is 1 for every 5,800 people.
Centenarians are people who are living into their 100s, and according to the United States Census Bureau records the number of these longevity warriors is increasing, yet we don’t necessarily know exactly how they are doing it, but there are plenty of hints.
Along with a growing body of research, National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner suggests that there are longevity hot spots around the globe where people tend to live longer, which he has dubbed as Blue Zones after a decade of locating and documenting centenarians.
Interested in the mysteries of the human condition his research has found several factors that may prolong life for those residing in these Blue Zones he has penned two books about. We’ve listed a few points and lifestyle tips from some of the longevity warriors he wrote about in these Blue Zones.
Naps and herbal tea in Ikaris, Greece: Those residing in this Blue Zone are more than 3 times as likely to reach 90+ than those residing in the USA; where living to nonagenarian status may be more likely with the bonus shut-eye time. Among 90% of the elders who nap regularly in the middle of the day, none of them exhibit any symptoms of depression, while non-nappers do, according to a 2011 study. Another study examining the sleeping behaviors of all Greeks found those who nap for at least 30 minutes a day had a 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Longevity warriors here also regularly drink herbal teas which include wild mint, rosemary, and artemisia.
Positive relationships in Okinawa, Japan: Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world at 83 years on average according to W.H.O, and they are roughly 3 times as likely to reach 100 than Americans are. This is attributed to maintaining close ties and social networks keeping them longer with a grounded sense of purpose seen in all 5 Blue Zones. Residents here stay true to a traditional culture that emphasizes lifelong mosaics that provide both emotional and social support.
Eating the rainbow in Loma Linda, California: Here the proportion of those 85+ is more than double the rest of the state, with roughly four in ten being 7th-day Adventists whose adherents live longer than any other religious group in the USA. This Blue Zone endorses healthy living by avoiding smoking, and alcohol while promoting social bonds, activity and exercise. NIH examined the eating habits of 73,000 Adventists from across Canada and the USA and found that the vegetarians in the group were 12% less likely to die of diabetes, CVD, and renal disorders combined. Another study found they live 4 years longer, concluding those who ate nuts, green salads, fruit, cereal, and polyunsaturated fats were associated with reduced mortality rates.
Tropical fruit juice in Nicoya, Costa Rica: In this Blue Zone a man at the age of 60 has twice the chance of hitting 90 years old as a man living in the USA, France, or Japan does, which may have a lot to do with their diet and eating habits. The biggest meal of the day here is typically in the morning with the smallest meal being at night. These Blue Zone residents eat a lot of food, but their foods are less calorie-dense. In Nicoya, large quantities of antioxidant low-calorie tropical fruit are the main staples such as oranges, lemons, and bananas. Studies have shown an association between the risk of cancer in diets rich in vitamin C, but studies with vitamin C alone have produced mixed results.
Taking time to walk and enjoy the little things in Sardinia, Italy: In addition to a large number of centenarians in this Blue Zone, residents here have a high population of sheep herding and farming communities full of those who have/had regularly walk up to 5 miles a day across rugged terrain to do their duties. Daily trips to the grocery store are also on foot which involves climbing stairs up and down the tricky terrain in each direction, this as well as their day to day living in their multi-story homes provides even more anti-aging exercise. Studies continue to show the benefits of regular activity and exercise, which is clearly evident in these Blue Zones, but especially more so here in Sardinia.
But why are people living in these Blues Zones living longer and healthier than the rest of the World? Research suggests that they may be accomplishing this by doing the following rather religiously: maintaining a healthy diet (largely plant-based), sleeping well, exercising a lot, taking time to enjoy the small things, maintaining/nurturing close social bonds, having a positive mindset, consuming lower quantities of alcohol, limiting caloric intake, drinking plenty of water, having a sense of purpose, finding ways to downshift from stress every day, getting daily amounts of sensible sun and an living in an environment that makes the healthy choice the easiest choice (if not the only choice).
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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T.W. at WHN