Lessons in living longer
Have you ever wondered why some people live longer than others? Is it really about the genes, their diet, their attitude, or the environment? Apparently, all of these play a factor. The blue zones are where most of the world’s centenarians live, and when these zones or areas were discovered more than a decade ago, they were able to find out what made them outlast the rest of the world.
Dann Buettner is a bestselling author and a National Geographic fellow who discovered these “blue zones.” As he worked with a group of demographers, scientists, anthropologists, and other experts on longevity, he was able to identify five areas where most nonagenarians and centenarians live. These are Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, US.
What Buettner found were similarities in not only what they ate, but also what they did and how they looked at life. He published a book on his findings, which eventually became a success. He later on established his own company. When he copied the environment to a selected US town, the results were extremely positive, proving that changing one’s behavior is not enough and that an environment that encourages healthy living in itself is the key to longevity.
So what makes one live to a hundred? Consider the following lifestyle habits, coined by Buettner as the Power 9.
1. Let’s get physical. These individuals do not have gym memberships, nor do they work out for an hour and call it a day. They are naturally situated in an environment that encourages them to move—a lot! Consider walking or riding a bike instead of driving or doing hobbies that require a lot of physical activity.
2. Find your north star. Okinawans call it “ikigai.” This means to have a purpose, or to find your reason for living. You can add years to your life working toward it.
3. Beat stress. The difference between those in the blue zones and those outside of it is knowing how to handle stress on the daily. They meditate, they pray, and find ways to unwind during the day. Know your stressors and how to beat it.
4. Don’t eat past your limit. Push the plate when you’re 80 percent full. Those in the blue zones do not overeat. Also, they eat their smallest meal just before the day ends, in the late afternoon or in the early evening.
5. Put plants first. Most of the time. Plants are the star of each meal, while meat makes a guest appearance only a few times per month. Vegetable, beans, nuts, and other plants have been a part of their daily diets for decades.
Push the plate when you’re 80 percent full. Those in the blue zones do not overeat. Also, they eat their smallest meal just before the day ends, in the late afternoon or in the early evening.
6. It’s wine o’ clock. Yes, those who drink outlive those who don’t—but only if drinking moderately! Only one to two glasses per day, tops!
7. Have faith. Most centenarians attend a religious gathering or are a part of a religious community. Faith can add years to your life!
8. It’s all about family. People living in the blue zones care for their parents and grandparents. They also usually have a life partner and have children.
9. Find your tribe. As the saying goes, no man is an island. A support system will comfort you in times of struggle and encourage you to adopt positive behaviors that will help you live longer!
It may seem that these tips are not new and maybe you have already been doing some of these yourself, but what may set them apart from you is consistency. So if you have been practicing some of these already, keep going and start making changes toward other good habits too. As they say, a little goes a long way—and we mean 80, 90, or even 100 years long!