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

Life in the Blue Zones: The World’s Oldest People, Part II
Last week we introduced the Blue Zones; the five regions of the world where people live the longest—and are in good health. We can learn a lot from the lifestyles of the centenarians (people who reach 100 years or older) and can incorporate these healthy habits into our own lives. We covered two of the zones last week—Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy—and today, we’ll finish with the last three.

Loma Linda, California

You might be surprised to hear that one of the Blue Zones is right in our backyard; 60 miles east of Los Angeles is where you’ll find Loma, Linda—a town containing around 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists, the longest-living Americans; dedicated to healthy eating, exercise, God, rest and relaxation.

Seventh-day Adventists are strictly vegan and abstain from drinking and smoking; they also enjoy a diet rich in nuts which may contribute to their low rates of heart disease and diabetes. People in this Blue Zone place a big emphasis on daily exercise and enjoy taking walks. Another interesting aspect of their lifestyle is their weekly focus on friends, family, God and nature—which they observe during the Sabbath from Friday to Saturday night. And Adventists love to give back to the community; volunteering gives their life a sense of purpose and helps them stay connected to like-minded people.

Ikaria, Greece

This Greek island sits in the Aegean Sea, about 35 miles from the coast of Turkey—in Ikaria, the people are three times more likely to reach 90 than Americans. They also have 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent less instances of heart disease and nearly zero cases of dementia.
Many of the people on Ikaria live active lifestyles—living on mountainous terrain, farming or fishing. The stick to a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on an antioxidant rich diet of olive oil, beans, nuts, vegetables and limited dairy and meats. Ikarians also regularly enjoy tea and red wine, and exercise daily—often just walking the hilly land. And they love to nap and spend time with friends, which reduces stress and increases relaxation.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

Nicoya, Costa Rica

Last, but certainly not least is Nicoya; located in the western peninsula of Costa Rica, this is the largest Blue Zone on earth. These residents have the lowest rates of cancer in all of Costa Rica—and hundreds of them are 100 years or older.

One of the most important aspects of the Nicoyan’s lifestyle is plan de vida—meaning a “reason to live.” Like all of the Blue Zone centenarians, Nicoyans live an active lifestyle, much of which is in their daily activities like clearing brush, grinding corn and gardening. Sleep is also a big part of life—most get to sleep around 8:30 p.m. and rise with the sun. You’ll find lots of fruit in their diet, like the vitamin C rich maroñon and the anona, a pear-like fruit filled with antioxidants, as well as rice, beans and corn. Nicoyans enjoy lots of sun (and therefore lots of vitamin D) and also drink mineral-rich hard water containing large amounts of calcium and magnesium.

In all of the five zones, the researchers found these connecting traits: daily exercise from simple activities, housework, yardwork and walking; ways to cope with stress and a focus on relaxation; a large emphasis on family and closeness; diets heavy in plants; largest meals were early in the day; and all live with a sense of purpose. How will you incorporate these traits in your life?