Blue zones: Longevity tips and tricks

By Rady Ananda

Sponsored by NatGeo, AARP and the National Institutes on Aging, Dan Buettner gave the following TED Talk about the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age.  He shares nine common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100.  Gardening is one of them.

The five Blue Zones identified in his book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, are:

  • Sardinia, Italy;
  • Okinawa, Japan;
  • Loma Linda, California;
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and
  • Icaria, Greece

Fruits, veggies, nuts and fish are a must, says Jeffrey Traister at LiveStrong.  A little bit of booze each day will cleanse your circulatory system, says WebMD. Spirulina for those who won’t or can’t safely drink alcohol, suggests Dr. Mercola, and it’s also good for diabetes, liver, eyesight, and immunity.

A freshwater plant, “spirulina is similar to sea vegetables such as dulse, kelp, nori, Kombu, arame, and wakame. Along with its cousin chlorella (another one of my favorites), spirulina is a member of the “blue-green” family—but this family is actually not truly algae, says Mercola.  Though often called blue-green algae, “spirulina and its kin are actually cyanobacteria.”

More generally, Buettner suggests these nine steps:

1. Move Naturally

Americans burn fewer than 100 calories a day engaged in “exercise”.  We can get more physical activity naturally if we live in walkable communities, de-convenience our homes by getting rid of power tools and grow gardens.  Walking is the best activity for longevity.

2. Know your Purpose

People who know why they wake up in the morning live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.  Know your values, passions and talents–and how to share them on a regular basis.

3. Down Shift

Chronic inflammation caused by stress is related to every major, age-related disease.  To reverse inflammation, find time each day to meditate, nap, pray or enjoy a happy hour.

4. 80% Rule

Cut 20% of your calories with evidence based practices: eat a big breakfast, eat with your family, remove the TV from your dining area and say pre-meal expressions of appreciation.

5. Plant Slant

Eat mostly a plant-based diet heavy on beans, nuts and green plants. Eat meat in small portions (the size of a deck of cards) fewer than twice weekly.  For recipe ideas download our Blue Zones Recipe Booklet.

6. Wine at 5

Drinkers out-live non-drinkers.  Two glasses of wine daily will add years to your life, especially when consumed during a plant-based meal.

7. Family First

Living in a thriving family is worth a half a dozen extra years of life expectancy.  Invest time in your kids, nurture a monogamous relationship and keep your aging parents nearby.

8. Belong

Recommit, reconnect or explore a new faith-based community.  It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist.  People who show up to their faith community four times a month live an extra 4-14 years.

9. Right Tribe

Your friends have a long-term and measure impact on your health and longevity.  Taking stock in who your friends are and expanding your social circle to include healthy-minded, supportive people might be the most powerful thing you can do to add years to your life.

Of course, one commenter noted, you could simply start smoking then quit, and add 10 years to your life. Do that a bunch of times and you’ll beat out Methuselah.

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