Something I have always had a huge fascination with is centenarians and longevity. What can we all do in our day to day living to live a longer, healthier and happier life. This Spring I started my Integrative & Holistic Health and Nutrition Coaching certification and I was over the moon excited when one of the guest lecturers was Dan Buettner. Dan is the person behind the ‘Blue Zones’ which not only focuses on longevity secrets in terms of what you as an individual can do, but also how you can transform your community to live longer and better.
Dan, in partnership with National Geographic, has researched communities around the globe that have the highest life expectancy. Blue Zones are places in the world where people not only live longer, but healthier as well than anywhere else on earth – without medication or disability. To date, five Blue Zones have been identified:
- The Italian island of Sardinia
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California
- Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
- Ikaria, an isolated Greek island
So, what’s the secret? This is the part that I love. The number ONE indicator of how long you will live is how long you THINK you will live. It’s your attitude. Your positive spirit. Your optimistic outlook. And a close second? Your DAILY fruit and vegetable consumption.
In fact, 80% of the factors that determine your longevity are to do with lifestyle and environment, with the remaining 20% via your genetics. There are a few common denominators that they have found across the board with the five Blue Zones:
- Natural Movement – moving every single day. Not a specific type of ‘workout’ but natural movement like walking and yard work.
- Daily Ritual of Prayer – this doesn’t have to be faith based. Meditation or naps to help reduce your stress can also work. I think the key here is that it reduced your stress. We know that stress can cause everything from weight gain to cancer, so ensuring we do what we can to keep it low is really important.
- A Strong Sense of Purpose – I love this one. Do you have a strong sense of purpose? Do you wake up every single day with a positive intention or goal? Are you tuned in on why you are here on earth? And pardon the cliché, but do you know what your why is?
- Eat Wisely – the interesting thing about the diets of the five Blue Zones is that there isn’t a magic item that everyone was eating. They were eating mindfully. They were eating until they were 80% full. They were eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Plant-based Diet – the five communities that were studies all had this in common. Very little meat, lots of beans, nuts, fruit and veggies. They ate their biggest meal in the morning. They pre-plated their meals rather than family-style, which had them eating less.
- Connection – while we can have the healthiest food on our plate, if we don’t have healthy and strong connections, we are not ‘getting it’. With all of the Blue Zone communities family was NUMBER ONE. Who you spend your time with is a key factor in your health and longevity.
I think this is some really good food for thought (insert obvious nutrition joke here). While what we are eating and how much we are exercising are important, they are not the be all and the end all. My favorite take-aways? Your attitude is the number one life expectancy indicator, so wake up happy, grateful and optimistic. And of course, the common denominator about connection and community. It is wonderful to have a positive attitude for your own health and wellness, but when you can take it one step further to those you love, you are really winning at the health and wellness game. And for parents, pre-plating your kids food can help ensure they are eating enough fruit and veggies at every meal.
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