The life expectancy in the USA is 78.2 years of age. However, there are individuals all over the world that live to be 100+ years. What do they do differently than the rest of us? What are their secrets?
The people from Blue Zone, together with National Geographic set out to find these answers. They found and studied the world’s longest lived people. Studies have revealed that only 20% of life-span is genetic, which leaves the remaining 80% down to lifestyle and diet. Knowing this, Blue Zone and National Geographic researchers worked with demographers (people who work with statistics) to find places around the world with the highest life expectance, or highest numbers of individuals who reached 100 years old. They found 5 places which met the criteria:
- Barbagia region of Sardinia
- Ikaria, Greece
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- Seventh Day Adventists
- Okinawa, Japan
The Power 9
This team consisted of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists. These scientists sifted through the data and found 9 common denominators among all 5 places, which they called “Power 9”. Here are the 9 things most of the world’s centenarians do to live long and healthy lives.
- Move Naturally– This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym everyday, although you can if that’s what you enjoy. It means find natural ways to be active everyday. It may surprise you, but blue zone centenarians don’t lift weights or run endlessly. According to Blue Zones, all of these 100 year olds had one thing in common-they “moved naturally”. These people grow gardens or walk. They don’t have the modern conveniences that we have here for gardens and yard work.
- Have a purpose – What is your reason for waking up every morning?
- Down shift – Blue zone centenarians all have a way to deal with stress, something we aren’t good at here in the west. Do daily yoga and meditation – Research from India suggests that daily yoga and meditation have anti-aging properties. In other words, they help “turn back the clock”. Studies show that they help reverse cellular aging. Researchers think this is because it reduces the body’s stress response.
- The 80% rule – Here in the west, it’s common for us to “pig out” or eat until we feel like we’ll burst. However Blue Zone centenarians eat until they are 80% full, which could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it. Eat smallest meal in the evening. They then don’t eat for the remainder of the day. In a way, this is a form of intermittent fasting, which research has shown to have anti-aging effects on the body.
- Plant slant – Blue zone centurions eat a plant based diet. Beans, are the main aspect of centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on approximately five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.
- Wine at 5 – Almost all blue zone Centenarians drink alcohol in moderation. In fact, it may surprise you to know that those who drink moderately actually outlive those who don’t drink at all. Limiting drinks to 1 or 2 glasses per day, preferably wine, seems key.
- Belong – Most of the blue zone centurions interviewed belonged to some kind of “faith-based” community. Denomination was irrelevant. Attending a faith service 4x per month added, on average, 4-14 years of life.
- Loved ones first – Blue zone centenarians kept aging parents or grandparents near by, or in their home. They also commit to a life partner and invest heavily in time and love for their children.
- The right tribe – Centenarians lived with people who supported healthy behaviors. Research suggests that behavior, good or bad, is contagious. A social network can affect your behavior, so choose wisely.
We in the west love our modern conveniences and our technology. We like to make things as easy for ourselves as possible. It turns out that may be harming us more than helping us.
We are also beginning to live longer here in the west, However, not because of lifestyle, but due to advances in the medical industry. We aren’t healthier though. In fact, it’s just the opposite. We are heavier than man has ever been in history and plagued with chronic disease. As we age, we are plagued with chronic disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. All of these were rare just 100 years ago. We are living longer in spite of this and in spite of our fast food, and technology laden lives. Medicine cabinets filled with prescription bottles has become the norm for people in the west as we age.
We need to take a long hard look at how we are living and how we want our lives to look as we age. Do we want lives filled with chronic disease and handfuls of pills? Or do we want to live happy, healthy productive lives that are disease free? For me the choice is easy. We need to take a step back and learn from the centenarians in the blue zones.
Until next time, namaste my friends