Getting to live many long, healthy years is certainly desirable. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend a few more decades with their family, some precious extra time with friends, or travelling the globe, checking off a few more spots in their golden years? By Stacey Leasca
While much of it boils down to genetics, getting to live into your 80s, 90s, and maybe even make it to the century mark is becoming more common. In fact, the United Nations expects the number of centenarians to grow eightfold by 2050. One way to know if you’ve got a higher chance of making it to 100? Just check your zip code to see if you live in a Blue Zone.
First coined by researcher Dan Buettner, Blue Zones are areas that are home to some of the oldest — and healthiest — people in the world. According to Buettner, there are five places where you’re more likely to find people in their 80s, 90s, and surpassing the 100 mark with ease. Here’s a little about each and why they may hold the real secret to living as long as possible.
The 5 Blue Zones in the world
Sardinia was the first Blue Zone Buettner and his team identified back in 2004. According to the Blue Zones website, researchers found a “rare genetic quirk” carried by many of its inhabitants, which is linked to the population’s hearty longevity. But it’s not just genetics that makes the destination’s residents unique. As the site notes, people living in Sardinia continue to have a very active lifestyle and still hunt, fish, and harvest most of their food locally. The community eats a largely healthy diet consisting of whole-grain bread, beans, garden vegetables, fruits, and mastic oil, all of which are important for heart health. Also important, “They laugh and drink wine together.”
According to Blue Zones, the people living in Okinawa are fortunate enough to have extremely low rates of cancer, heart disease, and dementia compared to Americans. Their longevity can also be attributed to strong social ties, as well as a deep sense of purpose. “Older Okinawans can readily articulate the reason they get up in the morning,” the site reports. “Their purpose-imbued lives give them clear roles of responsibility and feelings of being needed well into their 100s.” The people here also favour a mostly plant-based diet.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Costa Ricans have a saying that everyone should adopt: “Pura Vida,” which translates to “pure life.” This lust for living happily each and every day has served the people here well and rewarded them with a few extra healthy years. Again, it boils down to strong familial ties, a sense of purpose every day, and — you guessed it — eating well. “Eating fewer calories appears to be one of the surest ways to add years to your life,” Blue Zones notes. “Nicoyans eat a light dinner early in the evening. For most of their lives, Nicoyan centenarians ate a traditional Mesoamerican diet highlighted with the ‘three sisters’ of agriculture: squash, corn, and beans.”
The Greek island of Ikaria is home to fewer than 10,000 people, but they are a healthy bunch. According to Blue Zones, they are nearly entirely free of dementia and chronic diseases. Additionally, one in three residents here lives into their 90s. How? According to researchers, it comes down to their social-centric culture, activity levels and diet, and love for a good glass of wine. “They enjoy strong red wine, late-night domino games, and a relaxed pace of life that ignores clocks. Clean air, warm breezes, and rugged terrain draw them outdoors into an active lifestyle,” the Blue Zones website states.
Loma Linda, California
Though Southern California offers a generally pleasant environment for all, the Seventh-day Adventists living in Loma Linda seemingly have it better than most. In fact, according to Blue Zones, they live about a decade longer than the average person, which could be due to their strict vegetarian diets and love for exercise. It could be because of their passion for helping others, too. “Like many faiths, the Seventh-day Adventist Church encourages and provides opportunities for its members to volunteer,” Blue Zones shares, adding that they stay active and “find sense of purpose, and stave off depression by focusing on helping others.”
See what else you can learn from the people living in the Blue Zones, so you can adopt a healthier way of life and perhaps give yourself a few more years in the process here.