‘Blue Zones’ is the trademark used to describe the world's longest-lived cultures within a region and the common characteristics that explain the longevity of its inhabitants. Blue Zones are home to some of the world's oldest people- a higher-than-average number of centenarians (people reaching age 100 or more).
The term was first introduced in 2000 by Michel Poulain and Giovanni Mario Pes, who had been studying longevity in Sardinia. Later in 2004, Dan Buettner, teamed with National Geographic, the National Institute of Ageing, and the world's best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better, longer.
As per Buettner, there seem to be a total of 5 locations where you are most likely to encounter folks in their late 80s, 90s or even beyond the 100 yr benchmark.
Here's a fun read about each one of the regions-
1. Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia was the first “Blue Zone” found by Buettner and his colleagues in 2004.
Residents of Sardinia live an energetic lifestyle, hunting fish and harvesting the majority of daily sustenance locally. The population consumes a mostly balanced diet of whole-grain breads, legumes, organic veggies, fruits, and mastic oil, and all are beneficial to overall health.
Plus they love drinking wine! Known for its resveratrol content, a potent anti-ageing compound commonly found in grapes, cranberries, peanuts, and even cocoa.
2. Okinawa, Japan
Okinawans are lucky to have exceptionally low incidences of malignancy, cardiovascular disease, as well as dementia when compared to the rest of the world. Their lifespan is partly credited to robust social bonds and a strong likelihood towards daily responsibilities.
Elderly Okinawans express why it is imperative to get up at dawn. Their purpose-filled lives provide them with distinct duties giving them a sense of responsibility, believed to be followed- long into their 100s.
3. The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Nicoyans consume small meals. For most of their existence, the centenarians of this place consumed a typical Mesoamerican cuisine centred on agriculture's three siblings- squash, maize, and legumes.
Their determination to live cheerfully every day has benefited this community with additional years to live. Essentially, for them it also comes down to having deep familial relationships, a sense of purpose each day, and eating a balanced diet.
4. Ikaria, Greece
One in every three inhabitants here lives into their 90s. The Greek island of Ikaria has fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, and makes a healthy lot. According to data they are practically devoid of dementia and chronic diseases.
Researchers attribute this to their social-centric culture, exercise levels and mediterranean diet, and appreciation of a glass of good wine. They exercise mindlessly by just gardening, walking to their neighbours house or doing their own yard work. The lesson to us: engineer more mindless movement into our lives.
5. Loma Linda, California
This region has been a national centre of health and wellness research for over a decade. The staunch Adventist community here outlives the average American by 10 years. Their longevity could be attributed to their food habits, regular exercise, no smoking and no alcohol. Taking their diet directly from the Bible they consume a vegan diet.
They follow a regular regime of low-intensity exercise like daily walks to reduce chances of heart disease and certain cancers. They value personal relationships and sharing each other’s values and support each other’s habits to improve their wellbeing.
To relieve strength and social ties Adventists take a weekly break, a 24-hour Sabbath period to focus on God, camaraderie, and nature.
Now, the first unifying factor across all five locations is a plant-based cuisine. Each Blue Zone regimen is built on five key elements: whole grains, greens, tuberous (sweet potatoes or potatoes), almonds and beans.
Secondly, beef or dairy products are less important in Blue Zone meals, while sheep, or goat's milk, are included. Also, no more than three eggs are eaten every week.
The next one is exercising. And walking is considered to be the most important way to do so. Lastly, they all value health and pleasure in ways that we are gradually learning and accepting. If we may also incorporate just a few of these Blue Zone ideals into our daily lives, who knows how many years we might be adding to our lives?