What Are Blue Zones?
The term “Blue Zones” was coined by National Geographic explorer and author, Dan Buettner. During 20 years of research, he discovered five distinct regions worldwide (and one in the USA) where people live longer, healthier lives up to 100 years or older (centenarians). Buettner reveals how their lifestyles and environmental factors directly correlate to longevity through his books and Netflix documentary.
What’s their secret to longevity, happiness, low chronic disease rates, and virtually no dementia? Let’s explore the blue zones together.
The 5 Blue Zones
Okinawa, “the land of immortals” boasts a high number of centenarians who rely on an antioxidant-rich plant-based diet as one of their longevity secrets. Some advice from Okinawans: Always have fun, don’t get angry, and make everyone happy. “Laughter brings us longevity,” says one resident in the Netflix documentary, Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.
The residents of this mountainous region hunt, fish, harvest their own food, and walk steep hills daily. An Italian researcher found, after interviewing 300 residents, that a predictor of longevity was the steepness of their village terrain. Residents also credit faith and hope as crucial to longevity. Their diet is rich in plant-based foods and garden-fresh, local ingredients.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
These blue zone residents are so healthy that they enjoy a biological age 10 years younger than their actual chronological age. How? They don’t depend on machines in daily life, resulting in more natural exercise and movement. They also credit their longevity to having a strong sense of purpose and community, working hard but taking the afternoons off and napping. Their diet is rich in beans, local fruit, and corn.
The residents of this longevity hotspot eat a Mediterranean diet and regularly drink antioxidant-rich natural wine. This tiny island community historically lacked ports so the residents learned to live off the land and engaged in regular activity just doing their daily chores. And that pioneer spirit lives on today. Icaria residents are known for their resilient self-reliance and a strong sense of community.
Loma Linda, California
The only Blue Zone located in the United States, Loma Linda is a Seventh-day Adventist community that credits its longevity to a plant-based diet, regular exercise, and a robust sense of community. Their religion requires abstinence from alcohol. Loma Linda residents tend to live up to 10 years longer than the average American.
How Can I Embrace The Blue Zone Spirit In Everyday Life?
Now that we know some of the real-world secrets that embody longevity, health, and happiness, how can we embrace lifestyle changes that positively impact our health and lifespan? According to Buettner, there are nine common features of Blue Zones. But you don’t need to live in Greece or Japan to learn these tenets and incorporate them into your own life.
Blue Zone residents engage in a high level of innate daily activity, much of it outdoors which helps stave off a vitamin D shortfall. Walking to visit friends, gardening, and shopping in open-air markets are all part of the blue zone lifestyle. Walking just 10 minutes a day is beneficial. Find ways to fit natural movement into your days such as walking or biking to the store, intentionally walking steep hills as the Sardinia people do. If you work at a desk, set an hourly timer as a reminder to get up and move. Take brisk walks after meals to aid in digestion and combat type 2 diabetes.
Okinawans call it "ikigai," and in Costa Rica, "plan de vida," both refer to a sense of purpose that gets them out of bed every morning and is so deeply satisfying that it adds to a longer and happier life. Is your job or career satisfying or do you go to bed exhausted every night? It may be time to reevaluate. Find a hobby or pick up an old one you used to enjoy, learn a new skill, or do meaningful volunteer work. Our brains are surprisingly neuroplastic and adaptable.
Blue Zones centenarians understand the importance of proper rest and sleep. They work hard but when the day is finished they are not immersed in their screens or cell phones. We suggest turning off screens several hours before turning in, taking a hot bath, and doing some light yoga or stretching. A regular bedtime ritual can help you unwind and relax. Try our Restful Sleep Gummies for optimal sleep support plus added natural pain relief.
The 80% rule
People living in Blue Zones don’t stuff themselves until they’re uncomfortably full. An ancient Okinawan mantra observed before meals reminds them to slow down and cease eating when their stomachs are 80% full. This is a good practice since it takes the brain up to 20 minutes to register hunger signals. The blue zones also incorporate some daily fasting into their lives whether it be as a religious practice or eating lighter in the evenings. You can try some daily fasting too for an easy way to boost overall wellness and longevity.
This inflammation-fighting eating plan is a personal favorite of Dr. Meredith Warner and she prescribes it in her private practice. “I wanted to help my patients fight inflammation and oxidative stress with one of the most accessible and beneficial diets,” she shares. “Chronic inflammation is the culprit of most noncommunicable diseases we face today.” Learn more from Dr. Warner about her favorite diet here.
Moderate alcohol consumption
Buettner believes that moderate alcohol consumption of some Blue Zone centenarians (except for Loma Linda) enhances their longevity. Celebrating with friends and family is also valuable and we always encourage responsibility. Nobody has reached a conclusion yet, but the benefits of alcohol in these communities may be the deep social connections it enhances.
Since alcohol depletes vital nutrients and minerals, It’s wise to have a supplement on hand to combat its negative effects. Wake Well, helps minimize hangovers and other adverse effects related to alcohol consumption and supports the liver.
Sense of community
Strong community ties promote longevity. Okinawans cherish their social circle which fosters financial and emotional support to the community.
This can be as easy as picking up the phone. No, not texting but actually calling someone or meeting in person, sharing a few laughs, genuinely listening, or complimenting them. New research suggests that engaging in just one social communication activity daily improves well-being.
Loved ones first
Blue zone residents place the highest value on strong family ties and they watch out for each other in everyday life. The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda are in close touch with their family members and provide support to aging parents.
Blue Zones offer visionary wisdom on longevity and prompt us to evaluate our lifestyles and perhaps slow down and enjoy life a little more.