In 2003, journalist Dan Buettner discovered 5 places in conjunction with National Geographic, where people tend to live longer and healthier lives than those around the rest of the world. Dubbed the "Blue Zones" because of “the blue circles researchers drew to identify the first one on a map,” the inhabitants of these locations have a high average life expectancy, with large percentages of people living to be over 100. People who live in these 5 regions do so often without the aid of medications and hindrance of chronic illness. Their longevity can be attributed to a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, exercise and low stress levels. A sense of purpose stems from family, religion, and regular social engagement within their communities. Food is consumed fresh, and consists mostly of plant based dishes made from native vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts. Daily activity dictates that locals traverse by foot, so physical movement, sustainability and socialization come naturally. Visit one of the 5 blue zones and you'll find warm beachy weather and a love for nature. However, even if you never jet set from coast to coast, perhaps there is still a lot one can glean in the hopes of pursuing a better life style.
The 5 Blue Zones
The first zone to ever be identified, Sardinia is home to the biggest population of male centenarians in the world. Due to it's geographical isolation, genes have been passed down from generation to generation containing the M26 marker. This M26 marker has been linked to a longer life span.
Okinawa makes up the south pacific islands of Japan. Here the women happen to live longer than other females across the globe. They value support groups, or what they call “moai" a lifelong group of peers there to help you through life's struggles. They also work hard to develop "ikigai" or a reason for being that helps center, motivate, and fulfill them.
Loma Linda, California
The only zone within the U.S., Loma Linda is a city in San Bernardino County, California. The Seventh-day Adventist Church (a Protestant Christian denomination) is prominent in the community. Those that reside here outlive their fellow Americans by a full decade. This is possibly due to a strict adherence to the Sabbath (a day of rest), the fact that their health is central to their faith, and that they don't partake in tobacco or alcohol use.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Located on Costa Rica's pasific coast, this Latin American paradise has a thriving healthcare system and economy. The locals have what they call a "plan de vida" or life plan that provides them with a purpose and enables their elders to continue to seek an active life.
Ikaria is an island in the Aegean Sea known for it's islander's pride and traditional values. Here it is normal to live into your 90s. The people come and go as they please, as the concept of time is less rigid than in the modern world.
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The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica could contain all the secrets to living a long, healthy life. There are regions of the earth specifically identified by their inhabitants. Blue Zones are areas in which the world’s longest-lived people reside. People who have lived beyond the average life span are concentrated these areas because of the resources and the communal way of life. The five Blue Zones that have been discovered and researched include cities is Italy, Japan, California, Greece, and Costa Rica. According to the Blue Zones website, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica holds the record for lowest rates of middle age mortality, and the second highest concentration of men who are over the age of 100. To achieve this status, the Nicoyans, along with the other members of the Blue Zones, follow these nine practices
Exercise is obviously extremely important when pursuing a healthy life. However, those who live in the Blue Zones rarely use modern techniques when it comes to working out. Instead they take advantage of their surroundings by spending time outdoors and using the earth as their gym
The Nicoyans refer to this as “plan de vida” or “why I wake up in the morning.” Having a sense of purpose in life will allow you to operate in a meaningful way. It can also increase your life expectancy by an extra seven years.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. However those who take steps to be proactive and avoid situations that incite unnecessary pressure, are less likely to develop illnesses such as heart disease, or alzheimer’s.
Those living in Blue Zones follow an ancient Confucian mantra to not eat past 80% full. They typically only eat a few small meals a day, and never surpass the 80% mark.
Diets vary across the world, but the people who live to be over 100 all share a few main staple dishes in their meals including: a variety of beans, lentils, soy and occasionally pork. They also limit their serving sizes to about 3 or 4 oz.
Wine @ 5
Alcohol may seem like it would have many negative effects on health, but when consumed in moderation it can actually be beneficial. It helps if it is consumed with friends, and/or with food.
Out of the 263 centenarians interviewed by the National Geographic researchers, all but 5 of them belonged to some kind of faith-based community. The type of faith didn't matter in terms of benefiting the people. Instead it is the sense of community and togetherness that aids in lengthening life.
Loved Ones First
Family structure is very important in these regions. Many of the people in Blue Zones live in the same home with their extended family. According to a National Geographic article: "Nicoyan centenarians tend to live with their families, and children or grandchildren provide support and a sense of purpose and belonging."
Many of these practices include the core value of community. This also includes the idea that it is helpful to surround yourself with people who will help you develop healthy routines. Studies show that obesity, unhealthy habits, and even loneliness can be contagious. To lead a longer and better life, it is helpful to be around people who bring out the best behaviors. At Number8, our community is made up of employees in Louisville, Kentucky and throughout Costa Rica. Our team travels through Costa Rica both for business, and for pleasure. We understand the value of leading a healthy, happy life. And we strive to learn from all the practices adopted by those residing in the Blue Zones. If you are looking to learn more about our company, and the work we do in Costa Rica, and in America, give us a call today at (502) 890-7665!
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