Longevity Uncovered

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Would you like to live longer? Of course! I can remember as a child having what could initially appear as a morbid fascination for cemeteries. I used to drag my parents into each and every cemetery we walked or drove by…just so I could calculate how long people had lived! Perhaps my curiosity in longevity led to an interest (some may say obsession) in health.

 

Having just read “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner, I’d like to share some of his insights. Blue zones represent regions of our planet where people generally live significantly longer. For years, Buettner and his collaborators have searched the globe for those treasured blue zones in the hope of learning how to improve our health and increase our longevity.

 

So far, five blue zones have been identified: the mountainous regions of Sardinia, the island of Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, the Nicoyan peninsula in Costa Rica and the island of Ikaria in Greece. The first striking characteristic is that these regions are isolated by geography, culture or religion. This seems to be crucial because it means the people living in these regions have been able to continue living a traditional lifestyle until very recently. Most have grown up leading physically active lives and eating mainly plant-based diets (due to the cost of meat). Family and socialising is central to their lives. Although a lot have lived through hardships, they lead relatively stress-free lives primarily because they place little importance on money, material possessions, job status, etc.

 

Buettner has identified common factors that are associated with longevity and distilled them down to 9 lessons. He stresses that these practices are only associated to longevity but don’t necessarily increase it. As we know association isn’t the same as causation. The 9 lessons are:

  1. Move naturally. Walk, cycle, garden, enrol in enjoyable classes
  2. Eat until you’re 80% full. Don’t stuff yourself
  3. Plant-based diet. Avoid meat and processed foods
  4. Alcohol (in moderation)
  5. Purpose. Have a reason to get out of bed in the morning
  6. Downshift. Take time to relieve stress
  7. Belong. Participate in spiritual community
  8. Loved Ones First. Make family a priority
  9. Right Tribe. Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values

 

He recommends introducing one or two of them at a time. It may be easier to start with the lessons we have a greater affinity for or simply those we find easiest to adopt. It’s not even necessary to try to follow all the steps. There you go…no rocket science or witchcraft required!