Ever wonder what it takes to live to be 100? Look no further than the blue zones, home to the highest number of centenarians in the world. Experts reveal how this exceptional population stays healthy and strong.
America may be one of the richest countries in the world, but we are certainly not the healthiest. A recent ranking listed us 35th, behind others like Canada, Cuba, Chile, and Costa Rica.
Health in America: where are we now?
As far as national health concerns go, obesity ranks high on the list for its link to chronic disease. Its trend has not looked very promising, rising from 30.5% to 42.4% between 2000 and 2018 in both adults and children.
But there is reason to feel encouraged on the health news front: obesity has been steady since 2015, and our rates of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes have all trended down during the last 20 years.
Also, Americans are eating healthier these days, upping our whole grain, plant protein, and unsaturated fat intake. There is still some work to do, as almost half of our foods consist of refined carbs and our saturated fat intake is a bit too high, but we are clearly headed in the right direction.
There is still more to learn: discovering the Blue Zones
With obesity still at a high in our country, there is still so much we can learn about and do for our health. When it comes to living a long and vital life, our genes matter, but we now know that the way we live may play an even bigger role.
The “blue zones” describe five regions around the world - Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece), and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda (California) - that are home to the people who live the longest and healthiest lives.
After years of studying these unique populations, experts have uncovered their secrets for vitality and longevity.
The Power 9: the healthy habits shared among the world’s longest-lived people
Want to live to be 100? Improve your chances by taking on these nine habits shared in the blue zones.
- Move naturally. In the blue zones, people keep their bodies strong without the help of weights or gyms. They instead condition their bodies through physical, everyday tasks. They tend their own lawns, gardens, and homes without the use of machinery, only using their own abilities.
- Purpose. Having a strong sense of purpose is a trait shared by the people of the blue zones. They believe that this alone can add as many as seven years to your life.
- Down shift. Stress is recognized as a major contributor to disease in the blue zones, so offloading when stress arises is made a priority. They relax by praying, napping, or remembering their loved ones.
- 80% rule. The people in the blue zones stop eating when they are 80% full, believing that eating more can lead to weight gain. The smallest meal takes place in the early evening and is also the last meal of the day.
- Plant slant. Beans are a mainstay in the blue zone diet, especially black beans, soy beans, fava beans, and lentils. Meat is only eaten around five times a month.
- Wine at 5. With the exception of the Adventists, people in the blue zones drink 1-2 glasses of wine every day while eating with friends.
- Belong. Most people in the blue zones belong to a religious community and attend faith-based services at least once a week.
- Loved ones first. “Family first” is a mantra the people in the blue zones swear by, often living with and caring for aging relatives, committing to a life partner, and showering their children with time and affection.
- Right tribe. Staying socially connected is a priority in the blue zones. They believe a solid community of friends and family are key to supporting healthy behaviors.