Think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again.
Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do everyday over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.
Look no further than the people of Blue Zones for proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul.
“Blue Zone” is a non-scientific term given to geographic regions where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations.
The term was coined by the author Dan Buettner, who was studying areas of the world in which people live exceptionally long lives.
They are called Blue Zones because when Buettner and his colleagues were searching for these areas, they drew blue circles around them on a map.
Where to Find a Blue Zone
In his book called The Blue Zones, Buettner described five known Blue Zones:
- Icaria (Greece): Icaria is an island in Greece where people eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, red wine and homegrown vegetables.
- Ogliastra, Sardinia (Italy): The Ogliastra region of Sardinia is home to some of the oldest men in the world. They live in mountainous regions where they typically work on farms and drink lots of red wine.
- Okinawa (Japan): Okinawa is home to the world’s oldest women, who eat a lot of soy-based foods and practice tai chi, a meditative form of exercise.
- Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica): The Nicoyan diet is based around beans and corn tortillas. The people of this area regularly perform physical jobs into old age and have a sense of life purpose known as “plan de vida.”
- The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California (USA): The Seventh-day Adventists are a very religious group of people. They’re strict vegetarians and live in tight-knit communities.
Although these are the only areas discussed in Buettner’s book, there may be unidentified areas in the world that could also be Blue Zones.
Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? Nope! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are.
Here are 5 lifestyle habits of the world’s longest living people:
Eat a Plant-rich Diet
Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they eat smaller portions of meat a handful of times per month.
You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but it’s important to eat a variety of plant foods daily – they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yep, every meal!
Healthy Fats in the Blue Zone
Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and fish.
Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.
Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain – bonus!
Get Enough Sleep
People in Blue Zones get a good night’s sleep and often take daytime naps. Getting adequate rest is very important for living a long and healthy life.
The right amount of sleep, about seven hours, can help prevent heart disease or stroke. Keep naps to 30 minutes or less for optimum benefit.
Drink Red Wine
Enjoying a glass of red wine a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease.
Of course, moderation is key. Four ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects.
Move Your Body Throughout the Day
Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time.
Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.
You might try:
- Stretching while you watch tv
- Take an after dinner evening walk
- Park farther away from your destination
- Choose stairs over elevators
- Take standing and stretching breaks at work
- Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)
The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.