If you could live to be over 100 years old, would you?
There is a narrative that living 100 years or more means you live your final years in pain or with a decreased quality of life.
However, with advancements in science and knowledge, scientists and health experts focus their efforts on how to live longer and live longer and healthier.
- 1 Average life expectancy in the United States
- 2 What are Blue Zones
- 3 1. Plant-based diets
- 4 2. Stronger social bonds
- 5 3. Have a sense of purpose
- 6 4. Walk the walk!
- 7 5. Take a daily “happy hour”
- 8 6. Practice portion control
- 9 7. Curate your social network
- 10 8. Reduce stress
- 11 Conclusion:
- 12 F.A.Q.
- 13 What are blue zones project communities?
- 14 Who first discovered blue zones?
- 15 What is a centenarian?
Average life expectancy in the United States
If you live in the United States, the odds are that you live a shorter life than people from other countries.
Although the United States spends more than $3.8 Trillion on healthcare annually, the average lifespan is around 79 years old for Americans.
This has them barely ranked in the top 50 in the world in terms of life expectancy, and the average age is nearly five years less than in Japan.
So why is this?
From the surface level, a few statistics contribute to a lower life expectancy in the United States.
Obesity, diet, smoking, and lack of exercise are some examples.
However, to identify why other countries may not have the technology, access to information, and health care but a higher average age, we will start by looking at the five regions of the world where it is common to live to 100.
These are known as the Blue Zones.
What are Blue Zones
Five regions of the world have been found to live longer and healthier lives due to their socio-cultural norms.
These regions are known as Blue Zones, named after the blue dye used in mapping them by National Geographic Society – Dan Buettner: The World’s Oldest People.
The five Blue Zones are:
- Ogliastra, Sardinia (Italy)
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica)
- The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California (U.S.A.)
- Icaria (Greece)
Each region has a different diet or food staple based on what is available to harvest from nature.
Looking at these areas and analyzing the people who’ve lived to be over 100 share commonalities that primarily relate to healthy choice and lifestyle.
Below, we will break down the commonalities from the five blue zones and how you can apply these elements of their cultures to your own life so you, too, can reach a healthy life expectancy.
1. Plant-based diets
One of the most significant similarities that all five blue zones share is that each person lives a primarily plant-based diet.
In fact, some areas in these regions live on over 95% of plants daily.
The world’s longest-lived cultures share these foundational foods: whole grains, greens, tuberous (sweet potatoes or potatoes), nuts, and beans.
The benefits to your health are great when eating an abundance of plant-based foods:
- Your risk for obesity is significantly reduced.
- Eating more vegetables and fruits can reduce your risk for several chronic diseases, including heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension, and certain forms of cancer such as colorectal cancer.
- The fiber from whole grains helps lower cholesterol levels which reduces blood pressure.
- If you’re not getting enough calcium through your diet or if you have difficulty digesting dairy products, then choose other options like leafy greens or almonds.
- Plant proteins tend to be easier for the body to break down compared with animal proteins.
A study done with many adults over 65 was conducted for six years, investigating how different types of food affected their heart disease risk factors.
Results showed that those who ate more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts had lower blood pressure and healthier body mass indexes (B.M.I.s).
The Mediterranean diet
If you are looking for an eating regimen that is more plant-based, I would suggest looking into the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is primarily plant-based yet focuses on small servings of meat that is mostly fish.
The diet also promotes an abundance of vegetables as well as fresh fruits and whole grains.
This type of diet can lower the risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome (a disorder associated with abdominal fat around vital organs), certain types of cancer such as colorectal or breast cancers in women over 50 years old, gallstones, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease (inflammation in the digestive tract), Parkinson’s Disease.
Some common foods found in a Mediterranean diet are:
- Olive oil and omegas
- Leafy greens
- Eggs, nuts (as a replacement for meat)
- Whole grains such as quinoa or barley are rich in fiber and contain protein.
- Fresh fruits with dark skin like cherries, plums, grapes, oranges, kiwi fruit, to name just a few choices.
- Vegetables that grow below the earth’s surface, like potatoes and sweet potatoes, are also good additions along with beans, including lentils and chickpeas(garbanzo beans).
This is not an exhaustive list of foods found within the Mediterranean diet but rather some basic healthy options to live by when looking at your plate from now on! Added sugars & soda consumption: The people who live Blue Z
One of the most exciting aspects is that nearly all Blue Zones have strong social bonds within their community.
This allows them to live longer, healthier lifestyles and provides a sense of purpose throughout life.
Social connection contributes to better health in many ways:
- It helps you live up to seven years longer than those with weak or broken ties (on average) – Harvard Health Publishing; Social Ties & Longevity.
- You are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, excessive drinking, drug use, and obesity when surrounded by healthy people.
- A study published last year found that older adults who were lonely had higher levels of inflammation markers linked with heart disease compared with those who enjoyed strong social networks.
Having a social bond also gives people something to live for.
In most cases, this is their families and friends who give them daily motivation.
The belief system held by many Blue Zone inhabitants is rooted in deep faith which transcends material wealth into more meaningful aspects such as relationships between loved ones.
This helps keep older members involved while giving younger residents an opportunity to learn valuable lessons about life at any age.
3. Have a sense of purpose
Having a sense of purpose is one of the most significant findings from studying these regions and their longevity.
In each area, they live by what’s important to them, such as family or religion.
The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda take this concept even further by practicing healthy eating habits on Saturdays, which corresponds with fasting days throughout Lent for Catholics, essentially giving up meat during those times instead.
This helps keep everyone accountable through rituals that bring families together.
4. Walk the walk!
Many of the regions live a more active lifestyle and spend less time sitting.
This is one reason they live longer, as it has been correlated to reduced risk for certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer while also improving moods and energy levels throughout life.
In addition to taking walks regularly through your neighborhood or on trails during the day – if you live near them which may not always be possible in cities – consider biking instead of driving when practical or using public transportation.
When shopping for groceries using your feet by walking around rather than get a cart so that you’ll have no choice but to walk from aisle-to-aisle choosing healthier options along the way.
Standing desks are becoming much more popular in the corporate world to reduce sitting and live healthier lives.
Physical activity, in general, is a great way to live a healthy lifestyle and leads to a healthy life expectancy.
5. Take a daily “happy hour”
In all of the Blue Zones, people live by a set schedule.
They wake up at dawn and go to bed around sunset. Naps during the day are typical for early risers.
Taking time out of each day to take a moment to be free of the chaotic world can help give you a positive outlook that can greatly contribute to you living a long life.
This is true even if it’s just 15 minutes per night where you sit outside breathing fresh air while enjoying being awake before going inside again, which can act as an excellent antidepressant (also try sunshine), especially after a stressful day.
6. Practice portion control
Many of the centenarians live by a traditional culture that shares meals around the table with their family – preferably in smaller portions than usual.
Not only is this good for your health because you’ll feel satiated faster while eating less, but it also provides an opportunity to spend time with others and learn from them as they share wisdom passed down through generations over food.
This, combined with other healthy habits, helps keep blood pressure low, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Studies show that people who eat home-prepared meals at least five times per week live nearly four years longer than those who don’t. Be mindful when dining out, though, since restaurant portions are typically much more significant. https://www.bluezones.com/2018/04/want-to-eat-better-and-live-longer-learn-to-cook/
As mentioned, centenarians live within a social circle.
This is incredibly important because you’ll be more likely to live longer if those around you are also healthy and live long lives, too, since they can inspire and motivate one another.
If your friends or family don’t live as healthfully as you do, though, spend less time with them so that it’s easier for you to stick to habits that will benefit you.
This is not to say that you have to remove someone from your life entirely. Just try to limit the amount of time that you spend with them.
Seek opportunities to find like-minded individuals.
These could include joining a club, meeting people at church, or volunteer opportunities that will provide great stories down the road when reminiscing about life!
8. Reduce stress
If you are looking to slow the aging process, reducing stress is essential since it has been associated with many health problems such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes – Healthline.
These can then lead to other issues like high blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke.
With so many ways to live more mindfully in today’s modern world, finding stress-relieving techniques that work for you may be difficult but keep trying until something sticks.
A few ideas include:
- Writing down your goals or what makes you happy
- Spending time outside meditating
- Enjoying nature by taking walks through your neighborhood or near trails whenever possible
- Practicing yoga
- Engaging in deep breathing exercises
- Getting enough sleep
If you are trying to live a longer life, start by emulating the commonalities shared amongst the world’s blue zones.
Don’t live in such a way that your life is so chaotic with work, family, and other responsibilities that you forget to take time for yourself each day.
Working hard is essential, but what good will the fruits of your labors be if you don’t live long enough to enjoy them?
Make sure that whatever it may be, find something meaningful about the task at hand rather than just going through the motions of life. When we live mindlessly without any purpose or awareness of ourselves, our health suffers, as does everyone else around us.
This can lead to isolation and depression – not exactly ideal conditions for living 100 years.
What are blue zones project communities?
The blue zones project is an organization dedicated to increasing the health and well-being of people worldwide by studying areas that live longer than most others.
They found five different communities with residents who live for upwards of 100 years while maintaining the quality of life in their golden years – The World’s Longest Living People.
Who first discovered blue zones?
The author, Dan Buettner, is credited with first discovering the blue zones.
He spent years studying these areas where people live longer than most others in hopes of finding out why they live so long and what lessons we can learn from them that could be applied to our everyday lives – and was featured in the national geographic magazine.
What is a centenarian?
A centenarian is a person who lives to be at least 100 years old – Centenarians.