Written by Vera Coetsee, Health and Nutrition Coach
11 September 2023
In the pursuit of leading a long and fulfilling life, cultivating healthy habits is essential. Habits play a significant role in our overall well-being and can greatly impact our longevity. By adopting certain behaviours and routines, we can promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being, ultimately increasing our chances of a longer, healthier life.
The blue zones & longevity
The Blue Zones are regions around the world where people live longer and healthier lives compared to the global average. These regions have been studied by researchers to understand the factors that contribute to longevity and well-being. The original Blue Zones include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and the Seventh-day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California. Factors thought to contribute to residents’ longevity are their lifestyle, food habits, social interaction and environment, rather than exclusively genetics.
Common features of the blue zones that contribute to longevity
- Focus on Plant-based foods: Blue Zone populations typically have a predominantly plant-based diet, which focuses on antioxidant-rich foods consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. They often consume meat sparingly and in small portions.
- Active lifestyle: Physical activity is an integral part of daily life in Blue Zones. Regular, natural movement through activities like walking, gardening, and manual labour helps to keep the residents active and fit.
- Strong sense of community: Close-knit social networks and strong social support systems are common in Blue Zones. People tend to have meaningful relationships, prioritise family, and engage in regular social interactions.
- Stress reduction practices: Blue Zone communities often have cultural practices that help to reduce stress. These can include daily rituals, prayer, meditation, or simply taking time to relax and unwind.
- Moderate alcohol consumption: In some Blue Zones, moderate alcohol consumption is observed, particularly in the form of red wine. However, it’s important to note that excessive drinking is not associated with longevity.
- Purpose and sense of belonging: People in Blue Zones often have a strong sense of purpose and a clear reason for waking up in the morning. Having a sense of belonging and finding meaning in life has been found to contribute to overall well-being.
Much can be learnt from the centenarians and supercentenarians of the Blue Zones. We can all make changes to our lifestyle that mirror the Blue Zone way of life. Make an appointment at our clinic if you need support with longevity.
Buettner D, Skemp S. Blue Zones: Lessons From the World’s Longest Lived. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Jul 7;10(5):318-321. doi: 10.1177/1559827616637066. PMID: 30202288; PMCID: PMC6125071. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30202288/
Poulain M, Herm A, Errigo A, Chrysohoou C, Legrand R, Passarino G, Stazi MA, Voutekatis KG, Gonos ES, Franceschi C, Pes GM. Specific features of the oldest old from the Longevity Blue Zones in Ikaria and Sardinia. Mech Ageing Dev. 2021 Sep;198:111543. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2021.111543. Epub 2021 Jul 12. PMID: 34265327. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34265327/