Why People in "Blue Zones" Live Longer Than the Rest of the World - Deepstash
Why People in "Blue Zones" Live Longer Than the Rest of the World

Why People in "Blue Zones" Live Longer Than the Rest of the World

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Why People in "Blue Zones" Live Longer Than the Rest of the World

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Blue Zones definition

Blue Zones refer to geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live exceptionally long lives.

They are called Blue Zones because author Dan Buettner, who was studying areas of the world where people live very long lives, drew blue circles around these areas on the map.

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The five known Blue Zones

  1. Icaria (Greece): These people eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, red wine and homegrown vegetables.
  2. Ogliastra, Sardinia (Italy): Some of the oldest men in the world live here. They commonly work on farms and drink lots of red wine.
  3. Okinawa (Japan):  You can find the world's oldest women here. They eat soy-based foods and practice tai chi, a meditative form of exercise.
  4. Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica): The Nicoya people regularly do physical jobs into old age. Their diet includes beans and corn tortillas.
  5. The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. They are strict vegetarians.

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People who live in Blue Zones eat a 95% plant-based diet

Most groups are not strict vegetarians but eat meat about five times per month.

Diets include:

  • Vegetables, which is a great source of fibre, minerals and vitamins.
  • Legumes include beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, which are all rich in fibre and protein.
  • Whole grains, which are rich in fibre.
  • Nuts: Nuts are great sources of fibre, protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Other dietary factors for Icaria and Sardinia are eating fish regularly. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fats.

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Calorie restriction

Eating fewer calories may be contributing to the longer lives in some of the Blue Zones.

  • Studies found that Okinawans were in a calorie deficit before the 1960s, which may contribute to their longevity.
  • Okinawans tend to follow the 80% rule, which they call “Hara Hachi bu.” It means they stop eating when they feel 80% full, rather than 100% full.

Fasting

Icarians are typically Greek Orthodox Christians that have many periods of fasting for religious holidays throughout the year.

  • A study showed that fasting led to lower blood cholesterol and body mass index (BMI).

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They consume alcohol in moderation

People in some Blue Zones drink one to two glasses of red wine per day, which may help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of death.

Sardinian Cannonau wine, which is made from Grenache grapes, has been shown to have extremely high levels of antioxidants, compared to other wines. Antioxidants help prevent damage to DNA that can contribute to ageing.

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People in the Blue Zones don't exercise purposefully by going to the gym. Instead, they are active through gardening, walking, cooking and other daily chores.

A study of men in the Sardinian Blue Zone found that their longer life was associated with raising farm animals, living on steeper slopes in the mountains and walking long distances to work.

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They get enough sleep

People in Blue Zones get sufficient sleep and also often take daytime naps.

Studies found that not getting enough sleep or too much sleep can increase the risk of death, including heart disease or stroke.

Blue Zone people tend to sleep as much as their body tells them to. Daytime napping of 30 minutes or less is also common.

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  • Being religious or spiritual: Blue Zones are typically religious communities. Several studies have shown that being religious is associated with a lower risk of death.
  • Having a life purpose: People in Blue Zones tend to have a life purpose, known as “ikigai” in Okinawa or “plan de vida” in Nicoya
  • Older and younger people living together: In many Blue Zones, grandparents often live with their families.
  • A healthy social network: Your social network, called “moai” in Okinawa, can affect your health. If your friends are obese, social acceptance leads you to have a greater risk of being obese.

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