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Alyssa Bronstein
Alyssa Bronstein

The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons For Living Longer Fro...

When taken together, the Blue Zones yielded nine powerful lessons to achieve a longer, better life. But before we get into the details, I think it's crucial to understand a few things about just how people age and establish some basic principles and definitions. How long can each of us expect to live? What really happens to our bodies when we age?

The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer Fro...

It is mostly hucksterism and charlatanism. They will cost you a lot of money, and these things do not work and, in some instances, can be bad for you. So stay away from it. These guys are just trying to sell you stuff. What does work is living the lifestyle of those who we know are living longer, like those people, I suppose, living in the Blue Zones.

Each Blue Zone revealed its own recipe for longevity, but, as we were to discover, many of the fundamental ingredients were the same. These common ingredients, our nine lessons of living longer, are deeply embedded in the cultures we studied. I suppose you could say that our quest was for a true fountain of youth, though this fountain does not spring from the ground but comes to us through centuries of trial and error.

Physical activity is part of daily life for the residents in the Blue Zones and is incorporated into the day through activities like gardening, walking, and cooking. Research on men living in the Sardinian Blue Zone discovered that living longer was associated with activities like raising farm animals, living on steeper slopes in the mountains and walking longer distances to work. Building more opportunities for physical activity into daily life can help you meet the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.

In the Blue Zones communities, having a sense of purpose in life is associated with living longer. In Okinawa, a life purpose is known as "ikigai" and in Nicoya, it is referred to as "plan de vida." Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning is closely intertwined with happiness, and without one, it can be difficult to maintain healthy behaviors and a lifestyle that contributes to a longer life. Research on psychological wellbeing has linked a sense of purpose and happiness with a reduced risk of death. The evidence is clear; having a positive outlook on life can influence how long you live.

Although lifestyles vary in each of the Blue Zone communities, the majority of regions eat a plant-based diet, get regular physical activity, drink moderate amounts of wine, manage their stress and have positive spiritual, family and social networks. Dan Buettner and his team of researchers discovered that these lifestyle habits are associated with living longer, so by incorporating them into your daily routine, it could be possible to add a few extra years to your life.

Living an active, full life well into your 90s - and possibly your 100s - may be easier than you think. Longevity expert Dan Buettner has traveled the world to meet the planet's longest-lived people in unique communities called blue zones, where common elements of lifestyle, diet, and outlook have led to an amazing quantity - and quality - of life. The nine powerful yet simple lessons he reveals in The Blue Zones can put you on the path to a healthier, happier life.

Healthier living and medical advances have pushed life expectancy in the USA to 79 (81 for women, 76 for men), but some people live much longer than that. Buettner knows a strong gene pool is important, but anyone can add on an extra 12 years, he says. You don't have to take a supplement to do it, he says, or take up jogging.

Do the Blue Zones hold the key to longevity? Evidence suggests that may be the case. These zones are notable for their high proportions of people who live to the age of 100 and beyond, largely avoiding health issues like diabetes and heart disease that afflict many Americans. Understanding how the world's longest-living people run their lives can provide valuable lessons for the rest of us.

Later studies verified the findings on Sardinia and confirmed the existence of four additional "blue zones" in the world. The term has since been trademarked by Buettner's company and is used to describe the environment and lifestyle of the world's longest-living populations.

Blue Zone living involves spending time with and supporting family members of multiple generations. This devotion to family means that aging relatives stay close to their children and often live with them. According to studies cited by Harvard Health Publishing, people who maintain strong family relationships live longer and experience fewer health issues.

Though these Blue Zones span across the globe, these Power 9s are shared among the centenarians and their communities. As you consider these nine lessons, choose ones that speak to you most as you begin your journey to living a longer, happier and healthier life!

In the five blue zones listed above, all centenarians have a lifestyle that focuses effortlessly around constant physical activity. When most people think about getting physically active, the gym immediately comes to mind. However, none of the centenarians living in the Blue Zones ever visit the gym. Instead, they live a life that incorporates natural movement and exercise without them thinking about it or needing to pursue it over and above their daily routines.

Having a sense of purpose in life is one of the best ways to feel upbeat and stave off depression. We all need a reason to get up in the morning and to participate in life. It seems that our bodies are rather responsive to our state of mind and those who no longer have a reason to live or a life's purpose are prone to feeling depressed[3] - which is naturally linked to stress, a weaker immune system, and living a shorter life in general due to an increase in all-cause mortality[4].

Dan Buettner and his team have taken these 9 lessons from the world's longest lived and have managed to change policies in some US cities to naturally incorporate healthier options for people. Blue Zone Project Communities are now striving to live longer, happier and healthier lives and we hope that after reading this, you will too!

DAN BUETTNER is the founder of Blue Zones, an organization that helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. His groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story "Secrets of Living Longer" and two national bestsellers, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest and Thrive. He lives in Minneapolis, MN. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter, and through his website

But what makes up the diets of the world's longest-living people? Nearly 20 years ago, National Geographic writer Dan Buettner and National Institute on Aging researchers set out to identify communities around the world where people lived measurably healthier for a longer time than most and then looked for common lifestyle habits that kept them vigorous in their 90s, 100s and beyond. Those original hotspots of centenarian vigor included Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece. The only U.S. location was Loma Linda, California, home to one of the largest concentrations of Seventh-day Adventists (a Christian denomination) in the world. By analyzing the lifestyles of those people, Buettner wrote the best-selling books The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest and The Blue Zones Kitchen, a recipe book based on that longevity diet.

Researchers found that most people in the Blue Zone areas ate fish, but not a lot, up to three ounces three times a week at most. That's about as much seafood rich in omega-3 fats as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises for good brain and heart health. But the Blue Zone centenarians tend to eat small fish like sardines and anchovies. Why? Smaller fish typically contain lower mercury levels than bigger, longer-living fish that have built up higher amounts in their flesh. A study in the May 2014 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the more fish people ate correlated with higher levels of mercury in their bloodstream. Eat the Blue Zones way by having less tuna, salmon, and tilapia and more sardines, herring, and mackerel. Eat smaller, younger fish to live longer and healthier.

What can the latest research teach us that supports lessons gleaned from people who consistently live longer than average? Quite a lot, as it turns out, especially in comparison with a typical U.S. lifestyle.

A long, healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer. Buettner has led teams of researchers across the globe--from Costa Rica to Sardinia, Italy, to Okinawa, Japan and beyond--to uncover the secrets of Blue Zones. He found that the recipe for longevity is deeply intertwined with community, lifestyle, and spirituality. People live longer and healthier by embracing a few simple but powerful habits, and by creating the right community around themselves. In The Blue Zones, Second Edition, Buettner has blended his lifestyle formula with the latest longevity research to inspire lasting, behavioral change and add years to your life. Region by region, Buettner reveals the "secrets" of longevity through stories of his travels and interviews with some of the most remarkable--and happily long-living people on the planet. It's not coincidence that the way they eat, interact with each other, shed stress, heal themselves, avoid disease, and view their world yield them more good years of life. Buettner's easy to follow "best practices" and list of healthy lifestyle choices from the Blue Zones will empower readers to live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives. 041b061a72


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