One of the most interesting lectures, from my health coach training, was from Dan Buettner, author of “Blue Zones.”  A project that originally began as research for a National Geographic article to uncover truths about areas of the world with the longest living civilizations, turned into a best seller and movement.  People in these Blue Zones reach the age of 100, ten times the average rate.

The top eight factors to longevity were: One- Do you get seven and a half hours of sleep at least five times per week?  Two- Do you get four honest servings of fruits and vegetables each day?  Three- If you have not smoked for at least three years.  Four- If you have never had unprotected sex with a stranger. Five- If you belong to a faith-based community that you participate in four times per month.  Six- If you have at least three good friends whom you like, and can have serious conversations with. Seven- If you can write on a piece of paper, in one sentence, your life’s purpose.  Eight- If you get a least thirty minutes of physical exercise per day.

If you answered yes to up to three of these, you can expect to live to be around 76, with five rough years at the end of your life.  If you answered yes to up to six of these, expect to live to 84 years old, with three tough years at the end of your life.  Yes to seven of these, you can expect to live to be 90 years old.  If you answered yes to all eight, you are likely to live to 92 years old.

Some other interesting facts from his study: if you answered no to question six, about having at least three close friends, that equates to a loss of eight years of life! Also, if you answered no to question seven, about being able to clearly state your purpose; that is also worth eight years!  It is also clearly stated in the lecture that how long you believe you will live also greatly impacts how long you actually will, and that twenty percent of your life expectancy is genetic, and eighty percent is lifestyle and environment.

The top five Blue Zones in the world are: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece.  In the lecture, Dan discusses some of the similarities between these locations that he suspects are part of the longevity of life within their communities.

In Sardinia, Italy they had daily, low-intensity activity, and consumed a homegrown, plant-based diet with meat only at celebrations. They are a culture that celebrates aging, with no nursing homes; grandparents live with their children and grandchildren.  It is also noted that children who grow up with their grandparents in their home do, themselves, live longer and with less disease.

Okinawa, Japan boasts the longest living civilians, with the lowest morbidity (prevalence of disease).  This culture consumes a plant-based diet that helps to keep the blood pressure low, and they stop eating when they are eighty percent full, which is less taxing on the body. This culture has social networks built in, to fend off loneliness.  Also, there is no word for retirement; they believe in living with purpose each day.

Loma Linda, California has the highest concentration of Seventh Day Adventists, who eat strict diets dictated from the bible; including mostly legumes, seeds, and green plants.  They take the Sabbath seriously, thus spending time within the community on a weekly basis.  It is noted that healthy walks in nature are highly valued.

Nicoya, Costa Rica focuses on faith, family, and purpose.  Their culture consumes no processed foods, and their waters are known to be rich with calcium and magnesium.

In Ikaria, Greece they eat a low blood pressure, Mediterranean diet, and add in Rosemary, Dandelion and Oregano to minimize dementia.

The longevity in these regions comes from diet and lifestyle, as none indulge in supplements or really work at being healthy.  All have natural movement built in, as well as daily, sacred rituals to reduce stress.  These cultures all embrace their life’s purpose and napping.  They consume little alcohol or meat, and enjoy plant-based diets, with beans and nuts as the main staples.  They consume larger meals in the morning, and little to no food towards the end of the day, and they pre-plate their foods at the counter rather than eating family-style, thus consuming twenty percent less calories per meal.  They are faith and community based areas that highly value their elderly.

I found this lecture so inspiring.  With some simple changes to our lives we can ensure longevity and reduce morbidity.  What will you embrace in this new year?

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