How to live to 100 the secrets of the people who live in blue zones
How to live till 100 years old… wow, what a thing that would be! When we look at the people who have reached this incredible age, not only have they been alive for so many years, they’ve actually lead a healthy and happy lifestyle! Notice how I say lifestyle, in this self improvement industry we’re often sold a quick fix or some magic pill thats going to solve all of our problems but, in reality that’s not the case especially concerning longevity, you’re whole life has to change, you can’t just take a pill, do some quick maths and add an extra ten years to your life, it’s something that you have to continuously do, there’s no shortcuts and neither was there for the people who have reached the grand old age of 100 and beyond. You might be thinking “well this blog can’t teach me how to live longer, especially if there’s no short cuts“ to be honest I’m not surprised if you’re a little confused or skeptical, I would be as well, due to how much advice is out there. The Atkins diet, go vegan, nofap, the list goes on and that’s not to discredit any of these things but, most of this blog is based off of the research of Dan Buettner who is the founding father of blue zones. Research has shown that your body (on average) Is built to live healthily to age 90 but in reality we live to around 78 on average.
What are blue zones?
Well apart from Dan’s business which was based off all of this research, in short blue zones are parts of the world in which people live much longer life’s than the average world population. In these areas there are people who living until they are 100 and beyond, otherwise known as centenarians! These places also have a lot of nonagenarian’s which are people living in their 90’s. Surprisingly In these areas or zones should I say, these extraordinary people aren’t just surviving, they’re thriving, some still do sport, drive and even work. This whole idea is based off of the demographic work from Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain who Identified one of the regions with the highest concentrations of male centenarians. The word blue zones came from the when the two researchers drew concentric circles of these areas and referred to them as blue zones. With the help of this research and the aid of national geographic Dan Buettner broadened the term as it applied to four other locations, want to no where these places are? You’ll have to keep reading!
Where are the blue zones?
In Dan’s research there are five natural blue zones where people live longer, these are Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and finally Linda Loma (California, America)
- Sardinia: Sardinia is a small island of the coast of Italy, this was where Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain did there research where they found that in a few villages in the highlands people were living to over 100, in fact this place has the highest concentration of centenarian men where they cycle around the hills and valleys and tend to the crops on their farms. They traditionally eat a Mediterranean diet. Older generations are celebrated and highly respected in Sardinia and often the women wear the trousers in the relationship.
- Okinawa: On the other side of the planet now in Okinawa which is a small island just below japan you will find the oldest living women in the world, It’s actually quite healthy for both Men and women as it’s found to have the world’s longest disability free life expectancy, meaning that there isn’t a decline in health of the elderly like you see in your country, they seem to die quite quickly after a long and healthy life in their sleep and occasionally during sex, yes I said sex! They don’t eat a lot but what they do eat is commonly plant based. Once the Okinawans reach the age of five years old they are put into a social circle called a moai’s which means "meeting for a common purpose", when in a moai you are expected to go through life together with the fellow members, helping each other through financial worries, relationships, health and spiritual interests. There’s no word for retirement in the Okinawan’s dialect, they have a reason to wake up every morning weather it’s teaching karate, going fishing for their family or just looking after their grandchildren.
- Ikaria: This island Which belongs to Greece but is just off the coastline of turkey was isolated for many years from the rest of Europe as it had no port, which probably helped them develop their own culture and lifestyle and I’m sure it would help now with everything that’s happening with Brexit but, that’s another topic. They follow the Mediterranean diet stricter than any other country, which I don’t blame them for! It includes many herbs that are great for reducing inflammation. The people that live here aren’t just living longer the country sees about one fifth the rate of dementia as you would expect to see among a similar population.
- Nicoya: Nicoya is in the peninsula of Costa Rica and the blue zone is located more inland instead of on the beaches. This place has the lowest rate of middle-aged mortality in the entire world. They have a very simple diet, beans and rice were very common and often served with a tortilla. They don’t really exercise but are often farming, cutting grass and making tortillas which is a lengthy process. The Men often have wife's that are younger than them which seems to help.
- Loma Linda: Now, at first this one is quite shocking as it’s in California, America which isn’t known to have that high of life expectancy even though so much money goes into the health and wellness industry over in America. After traveling to all of these exotic places Dan was informed to travel to Loma Linda and as he got out of his transport the first thing he saw was a del taco and a wiener bar, so you can understand why he was quite confused at first, but it turns out that Loma Linda is home to the highest concentration of the seventh day Adventist in the world. Adventist are conservatives Methodist, who distinguish themselves from other Christians, in that they celebrate their Sabbath on Saturday and they evangelize with health. But what seems to be the case with the people who live here living so long is that no matter what is going on they seem to be strict in stopping everything that is going on in their life when it comes to Friday and Saturday, no matter whether they have work problems, stuff they need to get done or what the calendar might say, they just stop! Friday night is family night, Saturday morning they go to the huge churches with all the other Adventist, Saturday evening they predominantly eat a plant based diet and on Saturday night they always go for their nature walk which is a traditional thing to do In that community. They take their diet directly from the bible which advises to eat fruit from the trees, plants with seeds and every so often green plants. The healthiest Americans are vegan Adventist and sometimes who add a small amount of fish. You might think it may be a genetic disposition that makes them live so long (roughly 10 years longer than the average American) but, surprisingly there is a great mix of heritage and backgrounds so the answer would be no.
9 powers of the blue zones
So you now know what blue zones are and the communities they can be found in, woohoo, sigh* that’s no use to you is It?, you don’t live there, “thanks for rubbing it in that these people are going to live longer than me” you might be thinking but, no need to worry, after Dan and his team had found these amazing discoveries they also looked at the commonalities between them, he looked for the similarities between all of the blue zones and what the glue was that was keeping all these people alive in these places, because of this it means you can implement these principles into your own way of life! As in the Danish twin study it was found that longevity is only determined by 20% your genes and the other 80% depends on the lifestyle you live. So what are these 9 powers? Well before we dive into each one, they actually belong to four bigger ideas, these are: Move naturally, right outlook, eating wisely and last but most certainly not least, connection. So let’s begin!
This power/principal only has one subcategories which is all about “moving naturally”. in all of these zones, the people are very active, so you might be thinking you need to get to the gym but, in fact the people who live in these places don’t actually go to the gym, it’s just that their environment keeps them active, they live in mountainous areas, cycle to work (yes, work at a hundred years old) or they tend to their garden. It’s said that the people who live in these areas moved on average every 20 minutes.
The first power of this category is the people’s ability to down shift stress, let’s not forget that it’s possible for these people to have lived through two world wars, so it’s not like they haven’t been through things, it’s just that they have learned how to handle their stress. Although we stress can be good, what I’m talking about here is when you have to much it can actually have a biological impact on your brain and ultimately your long-term health. The ways in which the blue zones combat stress is often in the form of meditation, yoga, walking, gardening or even just happy hour in Sardinia.
The second part of this category is life purpose, all of the people from the blue zones seemed to have a life purpose. A reason to get up in the morning, the Okinawans called it ikigai which you can learn more about by clicking here. These aren’t just flippant comments either, every day they wake up, they could give you the reason why!
This category is split into three subcategories all about what the centenarians consumed and how they consumed it.
In every one of these blue zones the people drank a small amount of alcohol, typically they would drink around three quarters to two glasses of red wine a day and no, that does mean you can save them all up and binge drink on the weekends! Although there is research suggesting that some properties of red wine are linked with longevity like polyphenols. another reason why red wine may add years to your life might actually be due to the social factor involved, we will get into this further down. There are a few other prominent drinks in the blue zones these were: Coffee, tea (green tea which was popular) and water.
Although this has come under criticism because some vegans and vegetarians have been misleading in what they are saying, the research shows that 95% of what the people in the blue zones ate was plant based. This doesn’t mean that they don’t eat meat, it’s just that it is seen as a little luxury, on average around 5 times a month, excluding the amethyst’s who are vegans bar a few that eat fish. Common foods were beans, sweet potatoes and nuts. Most of their diet was also organic aswell.
We’ve spoken about the 80% rule in other aspects of life and it seems that it may be apparent here to! Before every meal the Okinawans would close their eyes and say this “hara hachi bu” which means eat until you are 80% full. You also see that the other blue zones eat a smaller diet aswell. In their own words they would often eat breakfast like a king, dinner like a prince and tea like a pauper, they had strategies to reduce the amount of food they ate like smaller plates and serving the food in the kitchen and any waste would be used as leftovers for the next day.
Connection is the last category and is split into three components, I believe this may be one of the most important principles for not only longevity but also, living a healthier and happier life. It seemed to be the foundation of all the people who live in the blue zones.
Family comes first:
In the blue zones, family seemed to be at the heart of the lifestyle and culture, the older generations were never to far, sometimes even living with their children, grandchildren and in some cases great grandchildren. They had monogamous relationships meaning they only had one partner or at least one partner at a time and they would often eat with family around the table, drinking their wine and just enjoying what life has to offer.
Now i'm not trying to push you into religion by any means but the research shows that out of 243 centenarians only three people did not belong to a faith based community, it didn’t seem to matter what religion it was it was just the fact that they believed in a faith. The reason why faith and religion could be an attribution longevity is not yet known, some people believe it’s because of the commited social networks, healthy behaviors connected to religion or maybe it’s just God working his magic! The fact is we don’t know.
Last but not least, the people who lived in the blue zones had the right tribe. The tribe may make you think of something like an African tribe but what is meant by this is the people were either born into or actively looking for healthy friendships. We’ve already spoken about the importance of the people you surround yourself with in our blog about loneliness and the research has suggested that their might be even more of an Influence on you from the people you associate with than you might think, if your three best friends smoke tobacco, you have a 160% greater chance of smoking yourself, this sort of data has been found in many things such as depression and obesity. The thing is people’s behaviour, habits and outlooks are contagious so make sure you’re spending time around the right people.
Making a blue zone
After these great findings were made Dan and his team was tasked with trying to make their own blue zones in America. Instead of trying to change the people who lived there, they began to change the environment in which these people lived in. Their first area where they was going to try this was in Albert Lea, Minnesota. They use the term life radius to explain the distance between where you live and the opportunities around you, where you live, work and play etc, on average in America these places tend to be about 10 miles away so what they did was made the healthier choices by bringing them closer, within 5 miles at max. Putting healthier food at eye level, starting moai’s in which the people would walk with strangers and build new relationships, they would have a purpose by volunteering, building pathways to encourage walking and cycling, restaurants began to serve healthier foods and the team began to build community farms so everyone could have the experience of breathing in the fresh air and collect their own produce. The results, well the research suggests that there was a 4% drop in BMI in one year, two years later 60% of the moai’s were still together and had lost lots of weight, after the team was done city workers health care claims were down by 40%, tobacco usage in the county was down by 17%, an Increase of 56% of people walking and biking down town, I don’t want to bore you with all the facts but, as you can see, these interventions made a long-term attribution to longevity. They have now scaled this to many other areas and are seeing great results!
Would you like to live in a blue zone?
I think this is a great lifestyle to learn about more and I would strongly advise you doing more research on it as I myself have thoroughly enjoyed delving into the reasons why people who live here seem to live a lot longer than the rest of us. If you would like to start to adapting your life to a more “blue zone friendly“ environment like the project in America, there is some great books written by the researchers themselves which you can find below!
this book is the foundation of what its all about the idea of the blue zones are all about. The book goes over the commonalities that are found between each of the communities in thorough detail.
Are focused on the most happy country in the world and the reasons why they jump out of bed with a smile on their face.
Gives us 100 recipes that the people from the countries who live to 100 and beyond eat Themselves.
is based more on the recipes and eating habits of the longest living people in the world.