10 Tips That Will Add 10 Years to Your Life
One hundred years old is an age most people, including the average American, won’t reach yet certain areas in the world are hotspots for centenarians.
In 2012, National Geographic and a research team headed by Dan Buettner set out to learn why do people in some parts of the world live so much longer than others?
What they discovered were five “Blue Zone” regions, where the people not only lived longer, but better.
“Besides having a large percentage of people that live to 100, the aging population also remains active well into their 80s and 90s, and typically do not suffer the degenerative diseases common in most of the industrialized world,” says Buettner.
The five Blue Zones around the world are:
A small Greek island where the elderly nap every day, garden regularly, eat well, and even stay sexually active. One in three Ikarians live to the age of 90, and this population tends to outlive the rest of Europe and America by a decade or more.
A southern Japanese island where men live to about 84 while women of the area reach almost 90 years old. In Okinawa, there is no word for traditional retirement. People are farmers and fisherfolk, even as they get older.
The Okinawan diet consists of lots of vegetables and leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and lots of fresh fish. The locals practice hara hachi bu, which is the Confucian teaching that promotes eating until you are 80 percent full.
A small village located on the island of Sardinia in Italy, Villagrande has no retirement homes, and seniors enjoy an active lifestyle and moderate daily intake of wine.
Men tend to outlive the women in this area thanks to a long life of labour. Most of the men in Sardinia are either raised to be farmers or Shepards. Since childhood, these men were used to a lot of physical exercise.
Costa Rica is a place where males who reach 60 years old are seven times more likely than their Costa Rican counterparts to live to 100.
The people of Nicoya tend to eat large breakfasts and small dinners. Staples of their diet include squash, eggs, black beans, corn tortillas, lots of local fruit, more than any of the other Blue Zones, and is meat-heavy (mainly chicken and pork).
A small Californian suburb in the United States home to about 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists — approximately half the population. Seventh-day Adventists believe that maintaining good health is a key part of their religion.
They typically abstain from alcohol, caffeine and other “stimulating” foods and habits, like smoking. They also set aside the Sabbath each week to spend time in worship, socialize with their family and friends, and enjoy nature.
I have to admit, I was a bit shocked to see an American suburb make the list.
While it’s easy to accept the idea that people living in distant, exotic places around the world may live exceptionally long and healthy lives, how can a small suburb on the inland, and the polluted side of Los Angeles, be producing people who live longer than typical Americans?
Dan Buettner and his team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists, found that there are a few evidence-based common denominators to all the Blue Zone regions.
The Power 9
1. Move Naturally. Moving naturally throughout the day — walking, gardening, doing housework — is a core part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida. Knowing why you wake up in the morning makes you healthier, happier, and adds up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
3. Down Shift. Stress is part of life, but Blue Zones centenarians have stress-relieving rituals built into their daily routines. Adventists pray, Ikarians nap, and Sardinians do happy hour.
4. 80% Rule. People in Blue Zones areas stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full and eat their smallest meal in the early evening.
5. Plant Slant. Beans are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains round out the rest of the diet and meat is eaten in small amounts.
6. Wine @ 5. Moderate but regular consumption of wine (with friends and/or food) is part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
7. Belong. Being part of a faith-based community adds four to 14 years to life expectancy.
8. Loved Ones First. Having close and strong family connections (with spouses, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren) is common with Blue Zones centenarians.
9. Right Tribe. The world’s longest lived people have close friends and strong social networks.
The Mythical Fountain of Youth
Buettner says, “There’s no physical fountain of youth — you don’t have to move to these far-flung places to add years to your life. It also can’t be chalked up to just “good genes.” The Danish twin study shows us that genes dictate only 20% of longevity. Lifestyle and environment account for the rest.”
To this, I would add a final tip
10. Control Your Environment. Your environment dictates how you live, work, and play.
And in the United States, we have built environments that facilitate unhealthy lifestyles. The majority of Americans live in cities built for cars not pedestrians. Instead of cooking healthy meals and socializing with friends, we gravitate toward fast food and eating alone in front of our TVs.
To bring the Blue Zone lifestyle into your everyday life, you need to setup an environment that creates these healthy habits by default. Buettner says the people living in the Blue Zone regions weren’t trying to be healthy.
Get rid of unhealthy food inside your house. Arrange your living room furniture so that your sofas are not facing your television. Commit to joining a club or volunteer group that meets regularly so social gatherings are part of your regular routine without you having to think about it.
There’s a lot to take away from the Blue Zone study even seven years later. Control what you can, cope with what you can’t, and it will all work out in the end.
To a richer life,