Do you want to live to 100 years old? If so then it helps to learn the secrets of world regions with the highest average expectancies. The UNDP (2018) reports that the highest life expectancies include Hong Kong, Japan, and Switzerland. There are also regions in the world included in National Geographic’s Blue Zone aging project that studied why certain regions in the world have higher-than-average life expectancies. This is based on various factors including diet, lifestyle, and social life. For example, it was discovered that fish/seafood were common foods eaten in the Blue Zones, while pork/beef was less popular.
Besides anti-aging foods, there were other factors that were common among the Blue Zones. They included close family ties and connections to friends and neighbors. There were other takeaways that show the secrets to a long life. They include going low-tech and staying active instead of sitting at a computer or staring down at a mobile device all day. There were other practices like chillaxing every day to reduce stress. It’s quite an accomplishment to become a 100-year-old centenarian. However, if you follow the anti-aging practices of Blue Zones you’ll have a better chance of living to 80s, 90s, or 100s with a lower risk of serious health conditions like type2-diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
What Exactly Are Blue Zones?
The world’s Blue Zones are regions in the world where people live the longest/healthiest lives. Blue Zone founder Dan Buettner has been searching throughout the world to find the so-called Fountain of Youth. It turns out it’s not in any particular magical spring, wrinkle cream, or superfood. However, it turns out that drinking more water, hiking in the Great Outdoors, and eating whole foods might be some of the keys to living longer and better.
The Blue Zones include:
- Ikaria, Greece
- Loma Linda, USA (California)
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Okinawa, Japan
- Sardinia, Italy
These areas were featured in Dan Buettner’s best-selling books “The Blue Zones” and “The Blue Zones Solution.” He also teamed up with National Geographic for the Blue Zone project. It was based on previous work related to Sardinia as the region with the most 100+-year-old males in the world.
Buettner was inspired to find other world regions with high average life expectancies. He found five of them and referred to them as blue zones. The researchers found several key features of all the Blue Zones that seem to be the secret to a long life.
Blue Zones is not even a trademark. It represents the lifestyle/environment of world regions where people live the longest. The blue zones are scattered throughout the world and include the Americas, Europe, and Asia. However, there are about 10 features that Buettner discovered all of them share. They include similarities related to the food people eat, how they live, and who they spend time with.
It’s always interesting to find out the tips & tricks of some of the world’s oldest living people. They can include some interesting ones like eating comfort foods or skipping dinner. However, many long-living regions throughout the world also follow some of the same basic steps to live longer than the average global lifespan of 71 years.
Blue Zone Aging: Secrets to Long Life
Today many people are looking for a magic formula to live to be 100 years old. The bad news is that there are certain factors we can’t change like our chronological (birthdate-based) age and genetics.
That said, the good news is The Danish Twins Study (2009) reports genetics only make up about 10% of the factors that determine lifespan. So you can’t really blame your parents for “bad genes” if you don’t eat your veggies and hit the gym.
Buettner’s research discovered 9 key features of the Blue Zones that seem to hold the secret to a long life:
- Develop a sense of purpose
- Join a faith-based organization/community
- Enjoy moderate alcohol with foods (and/or) friends
- Center your diet on plant-based foods (whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits)
- Develop social networks
- Relax every day to reduce stress
- Have strong family ties and close friends
- Stop eating when your tummy is 80% full
- Move naturally during the day
Buettner’s researchers had some other interesting general findings. For example, it supported past studies that long life isn’t based on genes/DNA. They also learned that the Blue Zones weren’t related to any particular region in the world.
For example, consider that the so-called Standard American Diet (SAD) is now consumed throughout the world. For example, a study published in The Lancet (2014) reports that nearly one-third of the world’s population is now overweight/obese.
However, ironically one of the Blue Zones is located in Loma Linda, California. The city has one of the USA’s highest longevity rates. The resident liver is an average one decade longer than other Americans and has much lower rates of serious diseases like type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Buettner explains in The Blue Zones that this is due to the diet practices and culture of the region’s Seventh-Day Adventists. For example, public smoking is banned, the city controls alcohol’s sale, and the grocery store doesn’t sell any meat products.
Blue Zone Diets
Health experts often argue that most health problems are linked to a bad diet. It’s probably not surprising burgers & fries aren’t on the daily menu in the Blue Zones. However, you might be wondering what they’re eating and avoiding living 80, 90, and 100 years old.
Buettner argues that based on his research the average American could increase his/her lifespan by 12 years by consuming the Blue Zones diet. The diet was designed by conducting 150+ dietary studies within the Blue Zones.
We often hear about the latest and greatest “superfoods.” However, there are actually several that Buettner recommends adding to your daily meals:
- Green/herbal teas
- Leafy greens (kale, spinach, chards, collards)
- Turmeric (spice/tea)
- Fruits (all kinds)
- Beans/Peas (all kinds)
- Oatmeal (slow-cook/steel-cut)
- Nuts (all kinds)
- Olive oil
- Sweet potatoes
In The Blue Zones Solution he makes these dietary recommendations based on the Blue Zones Diet:
- Stop eating after you’re 80% full
- Make breakfast your largest meal
- Make most of your meal home-cooked
- Eat ½ cup of beans every day
- Make plant-based foods 95% of your daily diet
- Eat a handful of nuts every day
- Make dinner your smallest meal
Meanwhile, there are also certain foods that you should consider limiting in your daily diet. The joy of eating includes having some “cheat foods” from time to time. However, the Blue Zones research shows there are certain foods you should try to avoid:
- Dairy (limit)
- Bread (whole grains are OK)
- Sugar (limit)
- Eggs (up to 3/week)
- Meat (fish every day and meat up to 2x/week)
It’s also important to stay physically active as part of the blue zone aging.