Live longer and learn from the world’s blue zones20 August, 2015
According to new data released this week, by the BBC the UK’s eating habits are changing fast. But what can we learn from the rest of the world? Here travel and lifestyle blogger The Travel Hack takes us through Blue Zones – the areas of the world where people live longest – to see if there are any tips we can use at home.
Have you heard about Blue Zones? Blue Zones are areas in the world where people live considerably longer than average. Read on to discover the secrets to a happier, healthier and longer life as told by travel & lifestyle blogger The Travel Hack…
The first Blue Zone to be discovered was the Province of Nuoro in Sardinia, Italy. Researchers found an incredible number of men over the age of 100 living in the mountain villages. Other Blue Zones can be found in Japan, California, Costa Rica and Greece.
But what is it about these communities that make them live longer and healthier lives? The next question on our lips is something we all want to know, is there anything we can learn from these people to help us live longer lives too? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the tips I can get!
The lucky locals in Sardinia are 10 times more likely to live to 100 in comparison to people from the US. That’s a pretty good stat and it’s thought to be due to their genetics as they carry the M26 marker associated with longevity. Sardinians are geographically isolated so this gene has remained relatively undiluted.
Good genes definitely play a role in their long lives but their lifestyle has been found to be just as important. Sardinians live a slow and traditional lifestyle. They hunt, fish and harvest their own food but it’s mostly a plant-based diet. Family meals are an important part of daily life. Mediterranean meals come with wine and laughter and lazy lunches are often followed by an afternoon nap. They have close bonds with friends and they also drink a lot of herbal tea that is filled with antioxidants.
Okinawa is home to some of the oldest women on the planet and has been called the Land of Immortals. Sadly, since the invasion of fast food, life expectancies have fallen which proves it was their diet and traditional lifestyle that led to a longer life.
A vegetarian diet with plenty of soy keeps them slim and healthy but growing their own veggies is thought to be just as big a help. Gardening has been proven to reduce stress, it’s good exercise, improves flexibility and ensures you get plenty of time outdoors as you soak up the vitamin D.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
It is not unusual for residents of Nicoya to reach the ages of 90, 100 or even 110. Centenarians in Nicoya have a strong sense of purpose and a need to contribute to the community. Many families live together with grandparents caring for grandchildren. This not only keeps the elderly active but also gives them a definite purpose. Nicoyans have strong ties to friends and family and are often very close to their neighbours.
Their eating habits may also influence their longer lives. Nicoyans eat a light dinner in the early evening so never go to bed on a full stomach. The local water is also naturally fortified with calcium, which may explain the fewer hip fractures in the elderly and lower rates of heart disease.
Loma Linda, California
In Southern California, a community of around 9,000 people from the Seventh-day Adventist Church prove that a healthy lifestyle really can lead to a longer life. Adventists in Loma Linda live an average of 10 years longer than other Americans.
They put this extra 10 years down to an incredibly healthy lifestyle. They are vegetarians and avoid all alcohol or cigarettes. They drink water, snack on nuts and take regular exercise. They believe Sunday is a day of rest and spend the day relaxing with their families. Adventists also believe that being surrounded by likeminded people with the same beliefs helps them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Ikaria has been called the island where people forget to die with centurians owing their long lives to a combination of geography, culture, diet lifestyle and outlook on life.
Similarly to Sardinians, Ikarians have been isolated and created a culture with a slower pace of life. Family and friends are valued and socialising is an important part of life. Wine is enjoyed until late into the night and thanks to the warm climate they spend a lot of time outdoors. The rugged, mountainous terrain also keeps people active well into their elderly years. Some of the longest living Ikerians were the poorest as they live on the steep highlands.
One particularly unusual thing about Ikerians is that they occasionally fast. They are traditional Greek Orthodox Christians and this religion calls for fasting that cuts out 30% of their daily calories. Research has found fasting can improve health and prolong life expectancy.
What can we learn from the world’s blue zones
There are a few consistencies common to all of the Blue Zones. The most important one is a close connection to family and friends as these bonds are thought to reduce stress and improve happiness. So pick up the phone and invite your friends and family round for dinner!
You’ll want to be cooking a vegetarian meal, preferably with veggies you’ve grown yourself in the garden. If you’re in Europe then some red wine with dinner is fine, if not, stick to calcium rich water or herbal tea. Make sure you laugh a lot and eat in the garden to soak up some vitamin D.
During the day, feel free to take a nap and leave the kids with their grandparents for a few hours, as it will give them a sense of purpose. Consider moving to the mountains, as your daily hike across the rough terrain will keep you fit as a fiddle well into your 90s.
Another consistency for people in the Blue Zones is a slower pace of life. What’s the point of rushing when you’ve got at least 100 years to get things done?