The 4 Secrets of The Blue Zones | Longevity Revealed
Longevity | These Mysterious Regions of The World Where People Live for Centuries
Renowned scientists have identified five surprising places called the blue zones around the planet. In Okinawa (Japan), Ikaria (Greece), Nuoro (Sardinia), Nicoya (Costa Rica), and Loma Linda (California), the most significant number of nonagenarians and centenarians live in excellent health. What are the specificities of these unique regions? Can we implement some of their rules of life? We lift the veil on the pillars of their longevity.
1– The Genetic Factor Is the Basis of The Longevity of Inhabitants Of Blue Zones
According to Dan Buettner, author of the book Blue Zones: Where Do We Live Better and Longer? longevity is explained 90% by lifestyle and 10% by DNA.
Luis Rosero, a Costa Rican epidemiologist, discovered through his research that people from the Nicoya region have a metabolic advantage, which is the cause of their extreme longevity. They not only have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels but also have fewer hypertension problems and are, overall, taller than in the rest of the country.
Furthermore, the structure of the chromosomes of these nonagenarians and centenarians is particular. Indeed, telomeres at the ends are much longer than expected. Their length would even correspond to that of people who would be ten years younger than them!
According to the epidemiologist, being less stressed is not the only reason for slowing the speed of telomere shortening and, therefore, the aging process. The indigenous Chorotega ancestry would have something to do with it since it would provide a gene that would make them more resistant.
2– A Predominantly Vegetarian Diet to Live Longer
Due to their isolated geographical location (all blue zones are islands), these regions are sheltered from globalization, industrialization, and pesticides. So, to feed themselves, residents mainly cultivate their vegetable gardens. They, therefore, consume local, seasonal products and very little meat, given that it is expensive.
But that’s not all: residents of blue zones tend to eat the same diet throughout their lives, a habit passed down from generation to generation that impacts the balance of their intestinal flora and strengthens their immune defenses. In addition, their digestion is facilitated.
Indeed, according to Vincent Valinducq, doctor, researcher, and co-author of the book Blue Zones, The Secrets of Longevity, food mixing stresses intestinal juices, which has negative consequences on health. And therefore, on aging.
In Okinawa, the island of centuries, sweet potatoes, green and yellow vegetables, tofu, and medicinal plants constitute the basis of the inhabitants’ diet. According to research by Dr. Michael Greger, more than 90% of their diet is plant-based.
The way Okinawans eat is just as important. Reciting the phrase hara hachi bu before each meal reminds them to eat up to 80% of their capacity- no more, no less.
3– Regular Physical Activity Maintains the Excellent Health of Older People
To preserve your health, gentle and regular physical activity is essential. There is no need to remind the inhabitants of the island of Ikaria in Greece. There, continuing to work even though you are (largely) of retirement age is very common. Far from being an obligation, it’s a pleasure! For example, some seniors return to work at the mill while others get back behind the looms.
More generally, the inhabitants of the five blue zones live in relatively isolated villages. Most travel on foot to do errands or visit family or friends.
Seniors and centenarians, therefore, live an active life without voluntarily practicing sports. Daily movement allows them to slow down muscle wasting and maintain flexibility.
4– Social Ties Are an Essential Factor in Longevity for These Unique Regions of The World
The Intergenerational Dimension
In the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, it is not uncommon to find at least four generations under the same roof. Older people play a central role within the family, significantly contributing to their high life expectancy.
Indeed, numerous studies have shown that regularly looking after your grandchildren allows you to live longer. It also improves cognitive functions and mental and physical health, helps combat stress, and reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, grandparents work on their memory by passing on their knowledge and memories.
The Feeling of Belonging
In Loma Linda, California, nicknamed the “oasis of longevity,” the community of Seventh-day Adventists lives together and works daily for the common good. This intense feeling of belonging goes well beyond goodwill towards each other.
Indeed, according to American researcher Dan Buettner, spiritual or religious commitment weighs in the scale of longevity:
“People who practice to their spiritual side will have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, stress, depression, and suicide. Moreover, their immune systems appear to function better.”
In Okinawa, a moai refers to a social support group. Depending on the group, support can be emotional, financial, or related to health or spirituality. Regardless, there is always great respect and a deep desire for mutual engagement.
The moans allow older adults to chat, dance, laugh, and cry together around a cup of tea. Some of them have even existed for more than 90 years!
Did you know that practicing a healthy lifestyle can impact your DNA and the genes transmitted to your descendants? That’s what epigenetics shows.
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