Want To Live Longer and Healthier? Adopt These 5 Blue Zones Practices

For those of you who think that Blue Zones (demographic regions of the world where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100 years) just have better genes, consider that only about 25 percent of genes determine longevity. And while of some of us do possess longevity genes, the remaining 80 percent is determined by epigenetics, i.e environmental factors, the foods we eat or don’t eat for and our thoughts.

Indeed, according to an article in Scientific American, a person’s lifespan is thought to be largely determined by the combined effects of genetics and environmental factors.

“The evidence is overwhelming that genes are a vulnerability factor rather than the cause of disease,” says Dr. Jennie Ann Freiman, a New York obstetrician-gynecologist. Risk can be modified depending on choices we make.

Keep in mind that there exist centenarians all over the world, but there are only a few areas where the longevity of the population as a whole is exceptional. Plenty of people reach a ripe old age, but many of them are decrepit and diseased. Life expectancy has more than doubled in the past 100 years and yet we’resicker than ever. Today, one in every two people suffers from a chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC.

Living a long, healthy and happy life extends way beyond medical advancements. To put this in perspective, when it comes to highest life expectancy, the United States ranks number 43. Appalling.

“We cannot learn about health by studying disease. There is so much focus on understanding the mechanisms of dysfunction but we cannot look at that in isolation,” contends Jason Prall, health practitioner and director and producer of The Human Longevity Project, a nine-part documentary film series that takes you on an exciting foray around the globe, on a mission to discover the secrets of the longest-lived and healthiest populations on Earth. “We have to understand where health comes from and how to facilitate that. You cannot learn about the light by studying the dark.”

Based on the wisdom of the Blue Zones, here are5 practices to adopt to tap into the fountain of youth.

1.A Reason For Being

Incidentally, the island of Okinawa in the East China Sea is considered a Blue Zone. The Japanese have a word called Ikigai, which means “a reason for being.” It is similar to the French phrase “raison d’etre.” Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding yours requires a deep and often lengthy search of self.

Having a deeper mission helps fuel life and is crucial to longevity. People in Blue Zones seem to live until they die, avoiding diseases that seem to plague the western world.

If you want a zesty, healthy life, find your unique passion.

2.Live Dirty, Eat Clean

According to research regarding Blue Zones, there is no one size fits all diet when it comes to living a long time. There are octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians who, for instance, report eating a substantial amount of meat or subsisted on potatoes morning, noon and night. With that said, they ate very little, if any, processed foods.

“There’s a lot of discussion on foods and what foods to eat. And in each blue zone their diet is different,” adds Prall.It’s not enough to look at the foods they eat and think that that is what feeds longevity. The key is to focus on organic whole foods, local or somewhat local. The real problems with health come from thinking that we can ship food from across the world and think there are no consequences.”

Having studied the food supply and our honeybees for more than a decade, I couldn’t agree more. People in Blue Zones eat organically, locally, seasonally and sparingly. It’s the advent of modern agriculture with its monocultures and tons of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and genetically modified seeds that have spurred sickness for people and planet.

Today, we know that we each metabolize food differently, and we each have a unique gut biome, which is where health really begins. The bacteria in my gut is not the same as yours, but certain communities may demonstrate similar bacteria that can impact how they metabolize certain foods.

For instance, The Atlantic writes that Lachnospiraceae bacteria were found to be more common in people who like dark chocolate. Is it just coincidence that this bacteria was found while studying Belgians?

The key is to eat for you and your condition and to eat clean and organic. Tom Blue, Director of Industry Strategy and Partnerships for the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM)agrees.

“I have become convinced that nutrition is a highly individualized matter holding aside a handful of obvious things to avoid,” says Blue. The Blue Zone research certainly seems to validate that notion.” Blue suggests apps like Suggestic and Nutrino for those interesting in exploring sophisticated personalized eating plans.

In some Blue Zones, like in Ikaria, Greece, a 99-square-mile remote and ancient island 30 miles off the coast of Turkey, the people were either historically dominated or lived in isolation and dearth.

“If you look at a Blue Zone, you’re really looking at what’s happened in the past 90 years,” Prall points out.

The 100-year-olds from Ikaria ate what they found in nature, from snails to mushrooms to wild greens, as well as what their gardens provided, Diane Kochilas, chef, TV Cooking Show Host, Cookbook Author tells the Huffington Post.

This is aligned with findings that illustrate intermittent fasting has a positive effect on longevity. A recent study of rhesus monkeys, which have a number of anatomical and physiological characteristics in common with human beings, demonstrates calorie-restricted diets play a role in aging and health, writes Dr. Mercola.

For Prall, who spent two years making The Human Longevity Project, it was obvious that Western influences have made their mark.

Prall describes that as you take the Eastbound exit for Loma Linda (a Blue Zone) the first thing you see are giants signs for McDonald’s, Starbucks, Burger King, KFC and In-N-Out Burger. A similar scene has developed in the growing cities of Okinawa. The Okinawa locals have coined a term for the ill-effects that have exploded in the last 20 years. They call it “Hamburger Syndrome.”

After living in Ikaria even just two months, I uncovered that the western world has sadly infiltrated their traditional culture. I became fully aware while inside a small Greek market on the edge of the Aegean sea in the city of Armenistis, looking for water in glass bottles versus cheap flimy toxic plastic. As I stood in line, the Game of Thrones song was playing over head and the Greek woman in front of me was buying Doritos and a loaf of Wonder Bread, ignoring the locally made bread options. (As I started digging, I discovered increasing rates of autoimmune conditions, two illegal landfills and tales of Roundup being smuggled into the island.

If we continue down this path, Blue Zones will die out.

3.Walking vs Vigorous Exercise

I was walking down a hill in an area of Ikaria called Raches when I spotted an elderly woman hunched over her stove, making a home cooked meal. The 94 year old, who lived alone, enthusiastically shared tales about how she’d traveled by foot from one village to the other, carrying a pack on her back that she’d carved herself out of a goat. She still walked often.

Walking is a common activity in Blue Zones.

In a study of women age 65 and older, just 30 minutes a day of light exercise like walking, running errands and cleaning the house was linked to a lower risk of death, according to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In fact, more light and moderate physical activity is as effective as vigorous exercise at preventing disease and prolonging life, according to an article in Time. Short bursts of exercise such as interval training vs non stop exercise is better for you.

While being physically fit is not synonymous with living a long life, regular movement of varying intensity is key.

4.Slaying The Silent Killer

There are a number of ways chronic stress can kill you. Literally. Chronic stress is associated with increased levels of cortisol aka “the stress hormone.” Elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, and increase blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.

In the Western world today, people are busy, exhausted and definitely highly stressed.

Resistance, or rather the dismissal of the clock as ruler of life [in Ikaria], is legendary, writes Kochilas.

Blue Zones live in complete concert with natural light/dark cycles, seasons and nature as a whole. They didn’t contend with EMF and light pollution.

“People who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of study than people who rolled with the punches and didn’t find daily life very stressful,” Carolyn Aldwin, who directs the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, tells NPR.org.

5.Connection and Community

While nutrition is vastly important, eating veggies and going to the gym may not be as important as having rich relationships.

In terms of nutrition, it gives us substance but it’s not the end all be all for longevity,” says Prall. “Energy comes from different sources.”

Who hasn’t been fueled by being surrounded by friends, family and positive vibes?

Social isolation (loneliness) has been shown to contribute to chronic disease and early death just as much (if not more than) smoking or obesity. More conscientious societies, however, with goal-oriented citizens who are well-integrated into their communities have been shown to live longer and healthier lives, says Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D., co-author with Leslie Martin, PhD, of the 2011 book The Longevity Project.

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124 comments

Peggy B
Peggy Byesterday

ty

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Chrissie R
Chrissie Ryesterday

Thanks for posting.

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Vincent T
Vincent T2 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Sophie L
Sophie L5 days ago

thank you

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

keep up weight bearing exercise. Either a backpack with a comfortable weight or step exercise with hand weights.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

th

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

ok

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Kay M
Kay M10 days ago

noted.

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maria r
maria reis10 days ago

Thanks.

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Michele Santos
Michele S10 days ago

thanks for sharing

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