Our guest columnist is Jean Newell, a wellness coach with Baptist Health who has led multiple conversations with experts on Blue Zones, areas with large populations of people 100 or older.
Chances are, at some point you’ve seen a TV show or read an article about a place in the world where everyone seems to live to be 100. How do they do it? These places, known as “Blue Zones,” share some common health habits that could be the key to unlocking a longer life.
What are Blue Zones?
Blue Zones are five areas in the world that have been studied and shown to have the highest population of centenarians (people who live to 100). These areas, also called “longevity hotspots,” are:
- Sardinia, Italy
- Ikaria, Greece
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- Loma Linda, California
- Okinawa, Japan
Dan Buettner, a lifelong explorer and educator, founded Blue Zones based on demographic work done by researchers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain. The name Blue Zones came about because Pes and Poulain drew concentric blue circles on a map highlighting these villages of extreme longevity and began referring to the area inside the circle as the “blue zone.” Buettner details this work in his New York Times bestseller, “The Blue Zones Solution.”
Lifestyles for longer lives
Now, the question everyone is asking: How do the people in Blue Zones live so long? According to Dan Buettner and his team, this longevity can be attributed to the “Power 9” health habits:
- Natural movement: Those who live in Blue Zones don’t follow structured, high-intensity exercise programs. Instead, they incorporate movement into their everyday routines through activities such as gardening, housework and walking.
- Purpose: Knowing your calling (why you wake up in the morning) can add up to seven years to your life expectancy!
- Downshift: Everyone experiences stress, even people in Blue Zones, but these cultures have times built into the day for stress relief. These include activities such as praying, remembering ancestors, taking a nap or having a “happy hour” to do something they enjoy.
- 80% rule: As a general rule, those who live in Blue Zones stop eating when their stomach is about 80% full. That feels somewhere between hungry and stuffed.
- Plant slant: People who live in Blue Zones eat mostly plant-based foods, including a serving of legumes each day.
- Wine at 5: These populations typically enjoy one to two alcoholic drinks per day with friends and food. If you incorporate this into your life, be sure to keep drinking in moderation and only do so in the company of trusted others.
- Belonging: Blue Zone research showed most centenarians belonged to a faith-based community, and that attending a service four times a month could add 4-14 years to your life expectancy.
- Loved ones first: Residents in these territories put family first and keep them close throughout their lives.
- Right tribe: Those who live in Blue Zones have a close group of friends who promote their healthy behaviors and serve as support during life’s many milestones.
Can you create your own Blue Zone?
The Power 9 are habits are to incorporate into your long-term lifestyle, rather than for just a short period of time. What I like about the Power 9 is that they don’t just reflect our eating or exercise routines (which tend to be what we focus on), but also our environment, spiritual needs and the people with whom we surround ourselves.
With each aspect of the Power 9 you incorporate into your life, you move closer to creating your own Blue Zone.
Baptist Health is working with Blue Zones on a community assessment to determine how to make Jacksonville a healthier place to live, work and grow old. To learn more or get involved, check out Activate Jacksonville. If you'd like help beginning your journey to a healthier lifestyle, visit baptistjax.com/4her or call 904.202.4her (4437) to set up a complimentary coaching session.