Characteristics of People from Blue Zones
Teams of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists have searched every corner of the earth to find what they have dubbed Blue Zones. These are the pockets of people around the world with the highest life expectancy, or those with the highest proportion of people who live to be 100. Their behaviors and commonalities have since been studied extensively to answer the question of how to live a longer, happier life. Dan Buettner explains these nine shared traits in detail in his book Blue Zones. This article will briefly touch on each.
- Calorie restriction and fasting. Avoiding overeating and making a conscious effort to fast occasionally keep people in Blue Zones at a healthy body weight. Most people in Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in early afternoon/late evening, and don’t eat again all day.
- Strong family connections. Blue Zone centenarians put family first. They commit to their life partners, invest in their children with time and love, and keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or at home.
- Having a meaningful life purpose. People from the Blue Zone of Okinowa, Japan have a term “Ikigai,” which translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Having a strong sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of added life expectancy.
- Low-level physical activity throughout the day. Spending the majority of waking hours doing things like walking, gardening, chopping wood, and other household chores keep these individuals with a proper ratio between body fat and muscle mass.
- Staying stress-free. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, a major factor in all age-related diseases. People from Blue Zones routinely practice stress-relieving techniques such as meditation, prayer, naps, and taking time to remember ancestors.
- Consume high amounts of legumes. Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils are foods with low glycemic index, and they make up a significant portion of all Blue Zone centenarians’ diets. Meat is only eaten an average of five times per month in Blue Zones.
- Close social engagements. The world’s longest-living people choose, or are born into, social circles that support healthy behavior. Having good people to look up to, and younger people to mentor, is important to increase longevity.
- Moderate alcohol consumption. With the exception of the Seventh Day
Adventists, all people from Blue Zones drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Red wine is the most common alcohol found in Blue Zones, and is typically consumed with friends and/or with food.
- Belief in a higher power. Nearly all centenarians belong to some faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Attending faith-based services four times per month or more can add 4-14 years of life expectancy.
To live to 100 like many people from these Blue Zones, a lot of things have to go right. However, adopting some or all of these characteristics will undoubtedly give us our best fighting chance. What do we have to lose?
Yours in Health, Dr. Alex