This February, Stanford Center on Longevity and TIME magazine released a survey of 2,300 adults showing that 77% of Americans want to live to 100. The problem is, as a society we are not putting our money where our mouth is. We are not prepared! Chronic disease, illness, stress and financial insecurity will keep us from reaching that goal. But, what if you lived in a “Blue Zone”? Take a minute and imagine a place where people lived to 100, where family is first and where better lifestyle habits are priority. Well, this is happening in the following communities: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. Author and National Geographic fellow, Dan Buettner, writes about Blue Zones in his book, “The Blue Zones”, “Thrive” and “The Blue Zones Solution” (www.bluezones.com). Dan lists 9 things, the “Power Nine” that each of the communities he studied had in common. If we all could do these 9 things, we’d be living in a “Blue Zone” and be living well.
1. Move Naturally: Live in a environment where you grow things, move within your home and walk/ bike to work or the store.
2. Purpose: Live with intention, what do you live for? Having a sense of purpose is “worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.”
3. Downshift: Chronic inflammation can lead to stress, so have a routine that sheds it! Meditate, relax, take a nap, walk with friends, journal, appreciate the small stuff, etc.
4. 80% Rule: repeat the phrase “Hara hachi bu“, go ahead, say it again “Hara hachi bu”. This is a reminder to stop eating when the stomach is 80% full. Imagine how much fewer calories we would consume if we followed this rule.
5. Plant Slant: Beans are the main source of diet and decrease meat intake in the Blue Zone. Those in Blue Zones ate only 3 to 4 ounces of meat (the size of a deck of cards) on average of 5 times per month.
6. Wine @5: moderate and regular wine intake of 1 to 2 glasses per day with friends/ food was important is the Blue Zone communities. Of course they can’t all be saved up for a weekend binge. And if you do not already drink, I am not recommending you start. Discuss that with your physician.
7. Right Tribe: Of course you probably have heard, “You can’t choose your family”. We do know you can choose your friends. The Blue Zone communities have social networks that support a healthy lifestyle. What if you could influence your friends and family to live like the Blue Zone? Think about the changes we could make if we all did that.
8. Community: Faith based communities are important in the Blue Zones. All but 5 of the 263 centenarians interviewed had a religious based community. I’m not saying you must do this, but could it be the faith itself or the social weekly interaction, you decide.
9. Loved Ones First: So many self help experts will say this. Is it true? In the Blue Zones, keeping aged parents and grandparents nearby helped not only the elders, but also the children, who where the caretakers, live longer.
Consider watching the TED talk by Dan Buettner for more information about Blue Zones.
So, this week, what can you commit to? Maybe you don’t live in a Blue Zone, but what if you made small steps in that direction, how would your life be different? I’d love to hear your comments.
Live Well, Dr. A
Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living like the World’s Healthiest People: National Geographic Society, Washington, DC 2015. Print.