What’s the secret to the places where inhabitants live longer than elsewhere? That’s the question Belgian researcher Michel Poulain and his Italian colleague Gianni Pes asked when they discovered the high proportion of 100-year-olds in the Sardinian mountains. They marked the spot in blue and the term “Blue Zones” was coined.
Since then, more areas have had their names circled, such as Loma Linda in the United States, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece and Okinawa in Japan. When you compare how people live in these places, ten common factors have been found:
1. Daily exercise. Those who live the longest move a lot in their everyday lives, often without thinking about it.
2. A sense of purpose. Feeling that you have responsibilities can extend your life by up to seven years.
3. Gearing down. Stress contributes to a variety of age-related diseases, so it is important to find ways to cut down on stress or learn to manage it better. For example, in Sardinia, people take naps in the afternoon.
4. Eating in moderation. People in Blue Zones tend to eat until they are not hungry any more, not until they are stuffed.
5. Eating more beans. Those who live the longest eat more plant-based foods, often beans. They also eat less meat.
6. Drinking wine. Moderate wine drinkers live longer than those who never drink wine. One to two glasses a day in good company is the recommendation.
7. Belonging. Gathering in a faith community around once a month, for example, can increase your lifespan by up to 14 years.
8. Prioritising family. Live close to your parents, find a partner for life, and dedicate time to your children.
9. A healthy social environment. Those who live in Blue Zones have a social network that supports their life choices.
10. Breathing clean, pollution-free air is one of the most important factors for a long and healthy life.