Blue Zones are the five regions of the world that contain the highest percentage of centenarians, those people who live to 100 and beyond. The term was first coined in 2005 by Dan Buettner. These 5 regions are: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and here in the US, in Loma Linda, California.
Why Loma Linda? It’s a city with a large population of Seventh Day Adventists. Buettner attributes Loma Linda’s longevity rate to the Adventist cultural health and diet practices where, for example, the city has: banned public smoking; strictly controls the sale of alcohol; and their church-owned grocery store won’t sell meat. I recently saw a TV show featuring a 95-year old 7th Day Adventist surgeon from Loma Linda who was still practicing his skills.
Longevity studies focus on 5 central habits that centenarians do that we can “copy:”
- Optimize nutrition
- Maintain daily movement
- Consume food consciously avoiding sugar and inflammatory foods
- Drink alcohol moderately
- Manage stress
One of the best ways to extend your longevity is to optimize your nutrition by eating most of your foods daily from the following groups since they help support your body’s immune and anti-inflammatory functions:
Especially useful are anti-inflammatory foods, including: grapes, celery, blueberries, garlic, olive oil and some teas and spices.
Another useful habit is to stop eating when you feel 80% rather than feeling bloated since it takes 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach: “Enough!” Stopping before you’re full is a way to avoid overeating and getting (or staying) fat.
Those living in the Blue Zones live in geographical locations whereby regular movement is incorporated into their daily lives. And centenarians, like anyone wanting to reach an older age in good shape, will tell you that you need to “move more.” For example, the practice of Tai Chi has been shown to help the process of cell renewal, proliferation and differentiation in the body so that it is in optimal working order. Walking often during the day every day, if possible, is another habit that’s not only good for your body but for your mental health as well.
One central and critical piece of research on the centenarians is that they commonly report being “satisfied with their lives,” and have lower levels of depression and only few experience anxiety issues.
Optimism refers to a general expectation that good things will happen, or believing that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes. I find it fascinating to learn that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live to age 85 or older. Researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan, and had 50-70 percent greater odds of reaching 85 years old compared to the least optimistic groups.
So, it comes back to you! Do you want to live a long, healthy and optimistic life? We’ve done some of the research for you. You really will have to actually take these steps for yourself!