“Blue zones” are where the world’s healthiest people live. These longevity hot spots have the highest concentrations of people living past the age of 100. They also have the lowest heart disease, obesity, and diabetes rates. So where are the blue zones, and what are their secrets to living longer? Read on to find out and also learn what steps you can take to live a healthier, longer life like people in blue zone cultures.
Ikaria, Greece: The Mediterranean Diet
Ikaria is an island in the Aegean Sea, eight miles off the coast of Turkey. They have one of the lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia worldwide. Research suggests that their health and longevity are linked to their Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of vegetables, whole grains, seafood, nuts, and beans. The diet also only includes small amounts of meat and dairy. The science supporting the benefits of a Mediterranean diet is undeniable. It’s associated with better brain functioning, promoting heart health, regulating blood sugar, and more. So it’s no wonder Ikarians are outliving other cultures.
Okinawa, Japan: Longest-Lived Female Population in the World
Okinawa island, controlled by Japan, is the largest island in a subtropical archipelago. The women of Okinawa are known to be the longest living in the world. Science suggests that their longevity is also linked to their healthy diet. Japanese staples like sweet potato, mugwort, soybean, turmeric, and bitter melon are helping keep Okinowans alive for longer.
Ogliastra Region, Sardinia: World’s Highest Population of Centenarian Men
This Italian island is a mountainous highland region with the highest population of the world’s centenarian men. Once again, we see in Sardinia that diet is crucial in helping this culture elongate its lifespan. Sardinians consume a low protein diet, which is associated with a lower prevalence of cancer, diabetes, and death before 65.
Loma Linda, California: Ten Years on Their Northern American Counterparts
This community is known to follow a “biblical diet” consisting of grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Known as the seventh-day Adventists, they live ten more healthy years than the average American.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: Lowest Middle-Aged Mortality Rates in the World
The Costa Ricans in this region of Central America have the lowest global middle-age mortality rates. They also have the second highest concentration of male centenarians, following Sardinia. What is their secret to longevity? Regular physical activity, strong faith communities, and deep social connections.
The Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity
These blue zones share nine specific habits, known as “the power 9”.
A Danish study on male twins found that genetics only account for 20% of the average person’s life span. The other 80% can be controlled by lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and social connections.
These are the nine evidence-based common denominators that the five blue zone cultures share, according to scientists:
- Active Lifestyles – living an active lifestyle (note, this is not the same as going to the gym every day. Instead, physical activity is inherent in their daily activities, like gardening or walking to the grocery store)
- A sense of purpose – “why you wake up in the morning.”
- Downshift – low stress and rituals that help cope with stress, like praying, napping, and meditating.
- The 80% rule – these cultures don’t overeat. Rather, they follow the 80% rule: stop eating when you feel 80% full. The remaining 20% spells the difference between weight gain and weight loss.
- “Plant slanting” – eat more plant-based foods.
- Happy hour (in moderation) – except for the Adventists, these cultures all drink alcohol regularly. The key is to drink in moderation.
- A feeling of belonging – research shows that attending faith-based services regularly can add 14 years to your life expectancy.
- Loved ones are a top priority – it’s more common to see extended families living in one household in blue zones. They also have longer life partners than other cultures and spend more time with their children and families.
- Sticking to the right tribe – the world’s longest-living communities have social circles that encourage healthy behaviors. Research shows that smoking, happiness, and loneliness are contagious. Therefore, strong social connections can help favorably shape good habits.
Only a tiny percentage of the population will win the genetic lottery. Thankfully, adopting a blue zone lifestyle to add years to our lives is something everyone has the power to practice.