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Life in the Blue Zones: The World’s Oldest People, Part I

Life in the Blue Zones: The World’s Oldest People, Part I
Ever thought about living past 100 years old—and enjoying it? Many of us look at reaching 100 years old as a feat, but in some parts of the world, it’s more common than you think. A researcher and freelance writer from National Geographic, Dan Buettner, set out to study the areas around the planet where people live the longest—called the Blue Zones. The residents of these zones—five in total—share certain characteristics that may be the link to a long and enjoyable lifestyle.

The Five Blue Zones

These pockets are spread around the world—and in each area people are 10 times more likely to reach 100 years old than those in the United States. And they’re not only reaching that age, but they’re reaching it in good health, living happy, fulfilling lives. So what’s the deal? How can we live like people do in the Blue Zones? Let’s visit each area to learn more about their secrets to a long and enjoyable life.

Sardinia, Italy

Okinawa, Japan

This beautiful group of islands sits in the Pacific Ocean about 360 miles from Japan. Here is where some of the longest-lived people in the world live; its residents see 80 percent fewer heart attacks and cancer cases than Americans. The Okinawans attribute their longevity to several things—but two of the biggest are ikigai, meaning “that which makes life worth living,” and moais, which stands for a strong social network.

Beyond their close family ties and cherished group of lifelong friends, Okinawans also place an important emphasis on daily exercise—often through household tasks such as gardening (where they get lots of vitamin D from the sun). Like all of the Blue Zones, they also enjoy a plant-based diet, and Okinawans include soy products, like antioxidant-rich tofu. Another aspect of their culture is hara hahi bu, which means “eat until you are 80 percent full.” To try doing this, stop eating before you are full and wait 15 to 20 minutes to see if you are still hungry. 

Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy

Head to the Mediterranean to find the island of Sardinia where you’ll find 10 times the amount of centenarians (people over 100 years old) per 1000 people than in the United States. The world’s highest concentration of male centenarians live in Nuroro, Province, a highland part of Sardinia. They believe the key to a long life is family and community.

On this island, the Sardinians hold their elders in high regard; they also enjoy a sarcastic sense of humor and place great importance on taking in the beauty around them. As far as diet goes, they don’t consume dairy from cows, but from goats, and also eat fava beans, barley and enjoy dark red wine. Another component of their diet is dwarf curry—which is used in the United States to manufacture anti-inflammatory drugs. Walking is also a big part of life in Sardinia; many of the men on this island are shepherds and spend their days traversing the difficult terrain.

Next week we’ll share the three other Blue Zones—one of them in Loma Linda, California! We’ll also cover some of the characteristics these five places have in common. If you’d like to conveniently get the Be Well in your inbox, subscribe by entering your email in the right-hand corner at www.chiroone.net/BeWell, and we’ll send you a post the moment we publish it.