Blue zones

Clean air and a good diet can contribute to a long and healthy life but there are some places in the world where people live exceptionally long lives. Here’s why!

Text: Anna Borg     Photo: Depositphotos    

90-year

-olds make up the fastest growing age segment in
the world.

Breathing clean

Pollution-free air is one of the most ­important factors for a long and healthy life.

95%

of the food in Blue Zones comes from plants.[/figure]

450,000 people

are older than 100.

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.

BLUE ZONES

Loma Linda US

Having a strong faith is not a bad idea for those who want to live a long life. In Loma Linda one third of the inhabitants belong to the Seventh-Day Adventists church.

Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica

Research shows that there is nowhere in the world where stress levels are as low as in Nicoya. It is even visible in people’s DNA.

Sardinia Italy

The local wine, Cannonau, has three times more antioxidants than regular wine, which is said to explain why there is nowhere in the world where people live as long as in Sardinia.

Ikaria Greece

For interesting further reading, we recommend Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die by Diane Kochilas (Rodale Books, 2014).

Okinawa Japan

In Okinawa they follow the principle of “Hara hachi bu” which means eating in moderation and stopping before you get full.