Blue Zones

Blog #35 – Blue Zones

I recently read an article in one of my professional journals, IDEA, about people who live in The Blue Zones. You may ask what the heck is this guy talking about? Well, let me try to enlighten you.

According to the CDC & Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, in 2017 the average American life expectancy was 78.6 years which was down from 2018. Our American sedentary lifestyle along with our poor eating habits are a breeding ground for chronic disease.

There are regions around the world where pockets of people do appear to enjoy a longer, healthier life expectancy. Those areas are so-called Blue Zones. The residents of these areas statistically live the longest and produce nonagenarians (90-99) and centenarians (100+). These areas are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy;

Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Seventh Day Adventist religious community in Loma Linda, California.

So, what is it they do differently? Let’s review the top 9 important things they do differently.    

  1. Predominantly Eat a Plant Based Diet

These folks eat less meat, usually very small portions of it. They eat Legumes, whole grains, local garden vegetables and herbs.

Look for more ways to eat increase the amount of fruits and vegetables. Try to serve smaller portions of meat. Three-quarters of your plate should be plant foods.

2. Most Calories are Eaten Early in the Day

People in Costa Rica and Loma Linda tend to eat their biggest meal early in the day and their smallest meal at the end of the day.

Try eating a bigger breakfast and a lighter dinner.

3. Mindful, Slower Eating Defines Meal

The people in the Blue Zones integrate eating into socializing in a more leisurely way. This has a tendency to slow the eating process down and therefore eating less. Being mindful when eating may allow us to be more aware when we are full.

Try eating unplugged from all electronics including your phone. Eat slower, chew your food more, notice the taste in the food and put your fork down between bites.

4. Physical Activity Fills the Day

Physical activity in the Blue Zone area involves a consistent flow of natural movements, such as gardening, pounding corn by hand to make tortillas, Tai Chi daily and shepherding livestock in the hills.

Our bodies were not made to sit in a chair all day. We Americans need to be active throughout our lives, not just when we attend the gym for our workouts.  We need to get up and move every 30 minutes.  Walk around when you are on the phone, take the stairs, garden, take a hike, march in place during TV commercials. Just get moving!

5. Sleep Nourishes Lifestyles

Poor sleep habits affect mental functioning along with chipping away at our life span. A large research review found that people who typically sleep less than 7-8 hours a night are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and early mortality.

Establish a bedtime routine that is conducive to sleep: no digital devices at least 1 hour before bedtime, remove light pollution and go to bed earlier. Fit in an afternoon nap.

6. Purpose Defines a Long Life

Have a reason to live, a life purpose, a sense of usefulness goes a long way for providing positive psychological well-being. Volunteer, find a hobby, help a neighbor. Craft a personal mission statement that can guide your way.

7. Nature Nurtures Active Lifestyles

Blue Zones people generally spend ample time outdoors. The average American spends 87% of their time indoors.

Being outdoors generally means you are more active and it acts as a buffer against stress. Break up the day by taking a stroll outside at lunch, or an evening stroll.

8. People Connect in Person

The average American spends 4 hours a day staring down at their phone. Engage in face to face time with people and less time on your phone. It will create less stress. Try implementing 1 full day (or a half day) with no digital devices.

9. Social Circles Reinforce Health

The first thing I thought about here was Keep The Beat Wellness and the friendships that have been formed.  Stay socially connected with like-minded people, get involved, play cards etc.

There you have it, the Blue Zone way of life. It is possible to build the Blue Zone values into you own life to help you live the longest, healthiest, most fulfilling life possible.

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