It has been a couple of weeks since my last post. With hurricane Irma coming through Miami, me falling and getting a concussion, and launching my plant-based recipes ebook this past weekend (download free copy here), it has been challenging to post. However, I am super excited to share with you something I learned this past week.
Did you know that something called the Danish Twin Study established that only 20% of how long the average person will live is dictated by genes, and the other 80% is linked with lifestyle and environment? That means we have a lot more say on our health and longevity then the genes are parents and grandparents have passed down to us!
At this week's lecture at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Dan Buettner shared with us his work with National Geographic to find out the cities in the world where the group of people with the highest life expectancy lived, or with the highest proportions of people who reach age 100.
The 5 cities that met their criteria were:
(I added a bit of information that I learned from Dan's lecture about each city)
1. Sardinia, Italy
- World's highest concentration of male centenarians
- Most of the men were shepherds until their late years, meaning they were constantly engaged in low-intensity physical activities for long periods of time
- They mostly ate a plant-based diet, eating meat no more than once per week as a celebratory food (and the meat would be about the size of their palm)
- Their culture celebrates aging
- Families lived in multi-generational homes (it has been found that children born and raised close to their grandparents have lower rates of disease and mortality later in life)
2. Okinawa, Japan
- Here, the females over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.
- Blue Zone with the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world
- They mostly eat a plant-based diet
- They practice Hara Hachi Bun (eating until 80% full)
- Good social network throughout their lives
- Strong sense of purpose in life
3. Loma Linda, California
- They live 10 years longer than the average American
- Highest concentration of Adventists in a community
- They take their diet from the Bible: legumes, seeds, green plants (mostly plant-based)
- They take sabbath every Saturday, where they rest, workship, network with friends, and walk in nature
4. Nicoya, Costa Rica
- World's lowest rate of middle age mortality
- Second highest concentration of male centenarians
5. Ikaria, Greece
- One of the world's lowest rate of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia
- They grow their own food
- They eat a Mediterranian Diet (consists of natural, whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts, dairy, and pure oils, and excludes processed and refined foods)
- They eat a variety of herbs that lower blood pressure: rosemary, oregano, dandelion
Dan Buettner and a team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists researched these 5 locations and they found nine common denominators that are making these small concentrations of people thrive. They called it the Blue Zones Power 9 .
1. MOVE NATURALLY
- People in the Blue Zones didn't join gyms or ran marathons; instead, they moved every day by going up the stairs instead of elevators, going for walks with their friends, biking to work instead of driving, gardening, cleaning the house.
- Throughout their lives they have a strong sense of purpose
- "The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy"
- The Blue Zoners are not excluded from experiencing stress; however, they have rituals to deal and manage theirs (prayer, meditation, and naps)
- "Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour."
4. THEY EAT UNTIL 80% FULL
- And they eat more at the beginning of the day and little before bed (“Eat Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, and Dinner Like a Pauper”)
“Hara hachi bu” is the Okinawan's 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals to remind them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it."
5. PLANT-BASED DIETS
- Their diet is mostly plant-based, with a big focus on beans and seeds.
- They eat meat only about 5 times a month. Their meat serving size is 3-4 oz (about the size of a deck of cards)
- People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) consume 1-2 glasses of red wine a day.
- Enjoy your red wine with friends or with a meal.
- The trick is to drink it daily, and not to save up and drink 14 glasses over the weekend!
7. BELONGING TO A RELIGION / FAITH
- "Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy."
8. PRIORITIZE FAMILY
- They keep aging parents and grandparents near the family, leading to many multi-generational households
- It has been found that children born and raised close to their grandparents have lower rates of disease and mortality later in life
- They commit to one lifelong partner (can add 3 years to life expectancy)
9. HEALTHY SOCIAL NETWORK
- People in the BLue Zones have strong ties with their friends and families.
- For example, the "Okinawans created ”moais”–> groups of five friends that committed to each other for life."
- It has been shown that smoking, happiness, obesity, and loneliness can be contagious. So when choosing your tribe, pick people can uplift you and add value to your life.
From the Blue Zones Power 9 listed above, which of these do you already practice and which ones would you like to include in your life? Share with us in the comments below!
You can visit bluezones.com to read more about the Blue Zones.
A little more about Dan Buettner:
- He is a multiple New York bestselling author
- After discovering the 5 Blue Zones, he has partnered with Healthways to bring the concepts he learned to 20+ American cities, optimizing their local environments to improve their citizen's health.
I hope this post added a bit of value to your life and gave you some valuable tips to incorporate into your lifestyle!
Thank you for stopping by!