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Maps You Should Know 4

Blue Zones

Maps You Should Know is a series of articles which will provide you relevant information about a certain topic by using maps, graphs and charts.
This episode will be focused on the Blue Zones and how we might unlock higher longevity by learning from the longest-living people on Earth.

blue zones

Geographical representation of the Blue Zones

The Blue Zones

The Blue Zones are 5 famous regions in the globe which share a very interesting characteristic – they are the areas in the world where people live the happiest and the longest.
These zones were first discovered by Gianni Pes and Michael Poulain in 2004 following a study which identified Sardinia, more precisely the Nuoro Province, as the region in the world with the highest amount of male centenarians. Then, building on this logic, Dan Buettner, an author and explorer, was able to identify 4 additional locations with extraordinary longevity – his whole exploration and investigation is detailed in many books of his authorship, such as The Blue Zones, The Blue Zones Solution or The Blue Zones of Happiness.
The additional regions identified by Dan are:

  • Okinawa in Japan – japanese island with one of the highest female longevity rates
  • Nicoya in Costa Rica – placed in Central America, this region has he second highest concentration of male centenarians as well as the world’s lowest middle age mortality rates
  • Icaria in Greece – an island in the Aegean sea with tremendous longevity and low rates of dementia and middle-age mortality
  • Loma Linda in the USA – with a population mainly composed of Seventh-Day Adventists, a Protestant religion, this region has remarkable longevity rates, specially when compared with the rest of the USA

Spreading across the globe, these regions may, at first sight, not have anything in common other than being fairly close, latitude-wise. However, as Dan and his team dug deeper, they were able to find multiple similarities and common traits shared by the people from these regions which may as well be the key to unlock higher longevities.

Power 9

Dan and his team were able to identify 9 common lifestyle habits, known as the Power 9:

  • Purpose – having a life purpose is associated with higher longevities. Feeling meaningful can be related to increased psychological conditions
  • Belong – Blue Zones are generally religious and most people there belong to some type of religious community. The sense of belonging ir associated with lower mortality and depression rates
  • Family – family is a priority in Blue Zones. Most centenarians in these regions live with their families and keep the elderly close
  • Friends – Studies show that most habits (and feelings), whether good or bad, are contagious and, thus, centenarians tend to have social circles which promote healthy and positive behaviors.
  • Exercise – higher longevities are not associated with intense gym routines but instead with natural exercise and a lifestyle which naturally incorporates physical activity
  • Plants – the diets in the Blue Zones are primarily based on plants – vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. The amount of meat consumption is also reduced to a average of 5 times per month
  • Stress – Long-lived people have routines to reduce stress, may that be praying or even napping, leading to lower disease rates and higher longevities
  • 80% Rule – longest-lived people reduce their calory intake, eating until they feel 80% full instead of 100%, which has been shown to have positive impact in life expectancy. Furthermore, they eat lighter meals towards the end of the day
  • Wine – Blue zone diets also contain alcohol. The moderate and regular consumption of alcohol, namely wine, has been shown to lead to longer lives, possibly due to the presence of antioxidants in such drinks, which prevents DNA decay, delaying aging.

These are the common factors between the longest-living people in the world – they rely heavily on nutrition, social circle and self-care and show that we do not need a magic pill to increase our life expectancy, but instead, most actions that may take us there are within our reach and can be practiced and promoted on a daily basis. By incorporating them in our lives, we may very likely be adding years to our lives.

by YKW // 06 August 2022

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