Ever wonder what the keys to unlocking a long life of happiness and good health are? Think blue. Blues Zones, studied by Dan Buettner and his team, are areas where people live the longest, healthiest, and some of the happiest lives in the world, unlike the American society that we live in today plagued by chronic disease. Many of these illnesses result from unhealthy lifestyles, and the American way of life and ideology often contribute to these diseases.
We tend to value productivity and focus just on work, rather than on healthy behaviors and taking care of our bodies. Americans would benefit from taking the necessary time to relax and enjoy life. Relaxation leads to lower stress levels, stronger immune systems, and improves mental health status. Research conducted on other nations has found that not all populations are facing the high rates of chronic disease like the United States is.
Dan Buettner teamed with National Geographic and the National Institute on Aging to identify the locations and lifestyle behaviors that seem to ensure the longest lives in the world. They found that people who live in Blue Zones reach the age of 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States. Buettner discovered 9 lifestyle characteristics, called the Power 9, that these areas have in common that lead to longer lives.
Sardinia, Italy is one of the first discovered Blue Zones. They still harvest much of their food, hunt, and fish. They eat a mostly plant-based diet, consisting of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, while enjoying red wine daily. Cannonau wine is the staple drink of the Sardinians that has 2-3 times the amount of flavonoids than other wines. Flavonoids are rich antioxidants found in foods such as wine, grapes, apples, blueberries, and many other plant foods. They also drink goat’s milk regularly. Aside from diet, other behaviors include walking five or more miles a day, laughing with friends, and valuing elders and family.
Across the globe, in Okinawa, Japan, centenarians are actively roaming the island while enjoying sunshine, gardening, and walking. The area is one of the poorest, however it has with some of the happiest and healthiest people in the world. The citizens of Ikaria, Greece exercise by gardening and walking. They nap every afternoon, drink plenty of goat’s milk, eat a Mediterrian style diet, and value time with family and friends.
In Loma Linda, California, people meditate, walk daily, eat plenty of nuts and seeds, practice moderation, and focus on giving back to the community. In Nicoya, Costa Rica, they keep a sense of purpose throughout each day, focus on family life, work hard, relish sunshine, and value traditions.
So what is it that each of these locations have in common? The Power 9 points out the intersecting behaviors in every zone.
Try incorporating the Power 9 into your everyday life. Here’s some tips: drink wine (in moderation), take a nap, spend time with family, learn to relax, and go for a walk. How great does that sound? The keys to living a longer and healthier life lie within some of the most enjoyable activities.
Check out Dan Buettner’s work at https://www.bluezones.com/ or his TED talk here.
Let's Move! STL Dietitians