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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

Blue Zones: How to Increase Your Longevity

By Becky Streeter

Blue Zones are areas throughout the world where the healthiest, happiest, oldest people live. Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Explorer, coined the term after an expedition to Okinawa, Japan in 2000. He and his team began researching communities with the highest proportion of people who reached 100. After compiling the information, Buettner took out a map and made five blue circles around the areas that fit the criteria: the Barbagia region of Sardinia off the coast of Italy, Ikaria in Greece, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, the community of Seventh Day Adventists (who happen to have a high concentration in Loma Linda, California), and Okinawa in Japan. 

Upon studying these pockets of centenarians, Buettner discovered each community had nine lifestyle habits in common, which he termed “Power 9”:

  • Move Naturally - People in Blue Zones move naturally and often. They walk or bike to work and social outings. They have few modern mechanical conveniences for yard and housework. 

  • Purpose - Centenarians wake up each morning with a sense of purpose. They view their life as a unique gift and therefore seek ways to better their community.

  • Downshift - They acknowledge their stress and create daily routines to address it through prayer, meditation, napping or happy hour.

  • 80% Rule - They stop eating when they are 80% full, allowing their brains to catch up with their stomachs. They don’t finish their plate simply because there is more food to eat. They often eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or evening, and then nothing else after it.

  • Plant Slant - According to Buettner, “Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.”

  • Wine @ 5 - Except for the Adventists, most Blue Zone communities drink 1-2 glasses of wine per day with friends and/or food. An invitation to drink moderately, regularly, and responsibly

  • Belong - Find a faith-based community. According to Buettner, “Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.”

  • Loved Ones First - These communities keep their aging loved ones close by or move them into their own homes, they are committed to a life partner, and they spend quality time with their children.

  • Right Tribe - Centenarians have chosen and remain in lifelong supportive social circles. These tend to be on the smaller side–five or so extremely close friends who have the same values and lifestyles. 

For more information on transforming your life for better quality and longevity, has a wealth of articles and recipes. The Blue Zones Project also works with communities throughout the United States, such as in Albert Lea, Mn., to “improve street and park designs, public policy, and social involvement so that it’s easy for people to make healthy choices.” All they need is a champion(s) to get the project started.

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