Six Secrets Of Living To 100 From the Blue Zones Project
Over the past decade researchers have found areas across the world where men and women are beating the odds and reaching age 100 at higher rates than the rest of the world. Surprisingly, genetics plays only a small role. Lifestyle and habits play a much more important part in helping people live longer and happier than previously believed.
In “The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” Dan Buettner writes about pockets around the world where people reach age 100 at rates up to 3 times greater than other parts of the world. People in the Blue Zones don’t just live longer, they do so with lower rates of diabetes, heart disease and dementia. Here are six common traits shared by centenarians:
- They keep moving with natural activities. People in Blue Zones don’t rely on gyms, but their lifestyle keeps them moving. Hard work, like chopping wood or tending farm animals, forms an important factor of everyday life. So do walking, doing physical tasks like raising vegetables, hiking, doing yoga, and fishing.
- Have a strong sense of purpose. Buettner notes that a person is 30% more likely to die in the year he or she retires than during their last year of work, because they have lost their sense of purpose. Residents of Blue Zone communities are thoroughly engaged with projects and work, and feel a responsibility towards their communities, like helping to raise the children.
- Eat a plant-based diet with lots of beans. The communities spotlighted in the Blue Zones depend on simple methods of cooking that rely heavily on homegrown or local fruits and vegetables. These populations tend to eat meat less than 5 times per month and to eat fish less than three times per week. Beans are a major source of protein. The diet includes a fair amount of grains and sweet potatoes. Moderate red wine intake is also a factor. The wines from the Blue Zone areas provide two to three times more vascular protective polyphenols than the average red wine.
- Practice faith and have a strong sense of belonging. Researchers found that spiritual and physical health are connected. Residents of the Blue Zones have a place where they can reach out in times of need and also lend support to others. “Attending faith-based services four times per month adds up to 14 years of life expectance,” Buettner notes.
- Put loved ones first. In the Blue Zones people aren’t put into retirement homes because, in these cultures, family takes care of their own from birth to death. Aging parents and grandparents are kept nearby, people remain committed to one life partner, and all share responsibilities for caring for the children.
- Don’t smoke. One of the biggest threats to adopting a better lifestyle is smoking. The habit is extremely rare among people reaching 100 years of age.
Learn how you can live to be 100. Watch an online “TED” talk about the Blue Zones here or check your local library for a copy of The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner.