the Science of Living Well: Blue Zones

Blue Zones describe specific geographical regions on the planet where people live not only to ripe old ages, like an average of 95-105, but who also retain their mental and functional capacity right up the end. In other words, they experience both quantity and quality of life.

Simply drawing circles on a map of the world in blue felt pen to designate regions of superior human longevity is how the Blue Zone concept originated.

In The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from people who lived the longest, author Dan Buettner identifies five longevity hotspots and explains how and why residents of these specific areas of the world manage to live longer and better than most of us.

The five Blue Zone regions include:

1) Loma Linda, California
2) Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica
3) Sardinia, Italy
4) Icaria, Greece
5) Okinawa, Japan

Supported by the National Geographic Society and joined by a team of investigative researchers, Dan Buettner visited each of these five regions to discover and record their habits, beliefs, customs, eating patterns, traditions and lifestyles.

People who inhabit Blue Zones share 10 common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity and functional state of health.

1. Family

Family is put ahead of other concerns. In context of our present reality from my point of view, family consists of those who genuinely care about you and respect your individual sovereignty and right to exist for your own sake. Genomically speaking, every human is part of a large human community or family, but obviously not all humans treat each other with respect and kindness.

2. No Smoking

Tobacco smoking is uncommon or plays an extremely minor role as an individual habit. It appears the psychological need to smoke is replaced with greater satisfaction in other areas of life.

3. Plant-Based Diet

Except for the Sardinian diet, the majority of food consumed is derived from plants including legumes, nuts and tubers. Majority does not mean vegetarian or vegan. Blue-Zoners are clearly omnivorous. A diet high in natural whole plant life is high in antioxidants, fiber, and thousands of naturally occurring biochemicals that trigger gene expression associated with enhanced immune function. These same biochemicals are not present in devitalized sterile factory food.

4. Constant Moderate Physical Activity

Moderate physical activity is an inseparable part of a healthy Blue Zone lifestyle. Walking relieves tension and anxiety and maintains a healthy posture. Barefoot walking on the sand, grass or dirt is best because it grounds us to the earth. When we connect to the earth directly in bare feet we actually absorb electrons that neutralize free radicals in our cells. This is called earthing or grounding.

5. Social Engagement

People of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities. They communicate well and feel free to speak their mind and express their true intentions and feelings. If you can’t express yourself, you tend to get bottled up and eventually release the pressure via negative emotions such as anger, frustration or resentment. Depression is redirected anger.

6. No Prescription Drugs

No NSAIDS, no statins, no opiates and no anti-psychotics. The fourth leading cause of death in America is taking prescribed drugs exactly as prescribed. It is much wiser to find a natural functional alternative or better still to prevent the need for any medication at all.

7. Warm Temperate Climate

Without exception, every Blue Zone exists in a warm, mild and temperate climate. When it’s warm outside it’s usually sunny and when the sun is shining there is less depression, less inflammation and less need to be inside. Warm weather invites you outside into the fresh air.

8. Natural Biological Chronological Rhythm

Work schedules are not synchronized with artificial clocks or watches. Blue Zoners rise with the sun and go to bed soon after the light fades. One of the best ways to free yourself of pain and inflammation is throw your watch away and stop letting time control your life. Humans are not robots.

9. Rest & Sleep

Lots of sleep, down time & relaxation. Many of us are sleep deprived. We stay up way too late and then get up early only because we have to. Without an alarm clock we would be lost in sleep. Sleep deprivation is intimately linked with our willful acceptance and compliance with schedules that deny our individual capacity to adapt. Make sure your life pattern and schedule isn't working against the grain of your biology, and remember, Nature always wins. Shift-work grinds everyone to pulp.

10. Independence

Blue Zoners are independent, self-directed and feel responsible for their own actions and behavior. They live off their own land, make their own food from scratch and do almost everything that needs to be done by themselves for themselves. Freedom is what freedom does.

Although it's certainly possible to seek out each of the Blue Zones yourself or find one similar to live in elsewhere in the world, it's important to create your own Blue Zone in the here and now in your mind until you do.

This means you have to make certain adjustments in your attitude and lifestyle, if you haven't yet already, if you want to stay well and remain whole.

People who move to the concrete jungle from Blue Zone areas continue to retain the health benefits of longevity and function because they continue to exemplify the same basic lifestyle. But if they don't, they tend to hit the wall quickly. If they compromise their degree of physical activity and stop eating whole fresh food, they develop the same diseases as everyone else, but much faster.

So where is your Blue Zone? Do you have such a place in your mind reserved for those times when you need to escape, contemplate life and rest from the madness of modern living? It's all up to you to find and create such as place, and you can. Just do it!

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

More on this topic...

the Science of Living Well: Life Extension
the Science of Living Well: Telomeres
the Science of Living Well: Calorie Restriction
the Science of Living Well: Neuroplasticity

As always...Stay well and Live Free!