Blue Zones – the secrets of longevity

According to the data of the Central Statistical Office of Poland from July 2021, the average life expectancy of men in Poland was 72.6 years, and of women 80.7 years. Stress, rush, a poor diet, and civilization diseases do not contribute to a long life in good physical and mental condition. So let’s take a look at the lifestyle of the inhabitants of five extraordinary places in the world, famous for their longevity, two of which are in Europe. He distinguished these zones on the basis of many years of research Dan Buettner, American writer and journalistby visiting places with the highest number of centenarians. He interviewed each of them, asking about their lifestyle, habits, diet, activity and work.

Based on these conversations, a longevity map was created, which included five places, called the Blue Zones, i.e. the Blue Zone. These are:

Okinawa Island in Japan,

Sardinia island in Italy,

Ikaria Island in Greece,

Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica,

City of Loma Linda, California.

Dan Buettner included his observations and a description of his project in the book “Blue Zones. 9 Lessons of Longevity from People Who Live the Longest”.

So what is their secret? What is the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the longevity zones?

All zones are linked by the consumption of mainly plant-based products (peas, beans, soybeans, lentils, vegetables, fruits), fish, small amounts of meat and restriction of high-percentage alcohol, and their diet is based primarily on local unprocessed food. Inhabitants of the Blue Zones, and especially Okinawas, follow the rule 80 percent, a reminder, that they should stop eating when their stomach is 80% full, i.e. with satisfaction of hunger but without overeating. In this way, they also take care of a slim figure and prevent many diseases. The alcohol they consume is primarily one or two glasses of dry wine with a meal or during meetings with relatives.

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Social contacts are a key element of life. Establishing relationships and strengthening ties has a great impact on your well-being and allows you to stay optimistic and cheerful.

Friends are a kind of social support group. People who socialize live longer, and an extensive social network contributes to a low level of dementia. An interesting fact is that in Okinawa, children form groups of five, which maintain relationships and contact with each other for the rest of their lives.

Families in Blue Zones often live in multi-generational homes or in close proximity to each other. This provides support in difficult times and thus a calmer life. Older people spend a lot of time with their loved ones, look after their grandchildren and help at home. As a result, they feel needed and feel like an important part of the family.

Residents do not torture themselves with murderous training in the gym, exercise is naturally part of their everyday life. Especially the inhabitants of Sardinia, Nicoya in Costa Rica, and Ikaria in Greece are characterized by high physical activity, especially in a mountain area that is poor in roads and inaccessible. Most of the inhabitants of these areas work physically, outdoors, in agriculture and pastoralism. Spontaneous physical activity, natural movement such as walking, housework or gardening is the basis for stress reduction and well-being.

According to the inhabitants of the Blue Zones, there is time for everything. There is no need to chase, there is no need to rush, everything will be done in time. It is not, however, that the inhabitants of the blue zones do not experience stress. They just have their own ways to reduce tension, e.g. praying, meeting friends, remembering ancestors, napping, meditation.

Centenarians from the blue areas do a reason to get out of bed every morning: take care of children, meet neighbors, participate in social and family life. This sense of meaning in Okinawa is referred to as “ikigai” and in Costa Rica “plan de vida”. The reason why we get up in the morning is a kind of engine that propels us and pushes us forward, giving us energy to act. Apparently, the sense of purpose and meaning in existence translates into seven additional years of life. So it is important to find motivation to live a rich and active life among your loved ones.

Many of the inhabitants of the Blue Zones belong to some religious group. People who belong to such a community are happier, suffer less from depression, and avoid stimulants, alcohol and drugs. It does not necessarily have to be a religious group, it may be a circle of interests, or simply a community of people with whom we have a common goal, to which we feel belonging and identify.

The striking common feature of the Blue Zones is that they are located in warm areas, with plenty of sunshine which is beneficial for your well-being. All of them are also located in mountainous areas, with access to the sea or the ocean. These are places rich in nature, and contact with nature definitely improves the quality of life and, most likely, thus contributes to longevity. In most of them, with the exception of Loma Linda, located near Los Angeles, the air is of very good quality.

Is it possible, then, for us to live to a ripe old age in health and serenity? It is true that we will not change our temperate climate to the sunny Mediterranean, but we can take care of our diet, physical activity, relationships with loved ones and look for the bright sides of life. If we change a few habits permanently, there is a chance that in this way we will live long years of health and happiness. With a little effort, building your own Blue Zone is within everyone’s reach.

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