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Live a long and healthy life

Old lady in colourful sombrero

What determines the number of years you’ll get out of your body? Is it out of our control? Or can we influence it? What is the secret to longevity and living a healthy life?

The answer: It’s not by trying to prevent death, it’s by learning how to thrive.

If you haven’t watched this Netflix series, get on to it – Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones – it outlines easy everyday ways to improve your health and extend life expectancy, living longer as do the people who inhabit the blue zones.

These 5 blue zone locations are vastly geographically different but share a common formula for the longest living people, who live vibrant, happy, active and long lives without trying.

🔵 Okinawa islands of Japan

🔵 Sardinia, Italy

🔵 Ikaria, Greece

🔵 Nicoya, Costa Rica

🔵 Seventh Day Adventists, California (Loma Linda)

There are 4 foundations that are common to these blue zones:

🔵 Having a POSITIVE OUTLOOK on life - Finding a purpose in life and a reason to get up each morning - Having a faith/belief system that supports your views on the world - Ability to manage daily and life stressors

🔵 EATING wisely, with intention and enjoyment - Having a plant-based, wholefoods, fresh diet - Reducing portion sizes and eating (and drinking) in moderation - Eating in a group/family environment

🔵 MOVING naturally, with incidental exercise instead of modern-day conveniences - Walking - Gardening - Doing things from scratch - Making things by hand

🔵 Practising social CONNECTIONS that keep you on-track - Importance of family - Maintaining close relationships - Hanging with the right tribe that support the same healthy ways of life

Now with two thirds of the rest of the people on the planet (67%) dying from avoidable diseases, and our life expectancy dropping, we really need to “have what they are having”!

The longevity blue zones are shrinking due to modern day industries and diets of fast foods and sugar. Younger generations of the blue zone locations are not living the same way, but rather heading down the same route as the rest of the world into obesity and poor health.

Putting a promising spin on this, in the last episode of the series, was Dan Buettner’s work on “The Blue Zone Project” – helping to transform towns in America by changing their environment so healthy choices were the easy or only option to make life worth living.

Singapore is an example of where this has been done on a national scale by the government, providing the people of Singapore with what is now the highest life expectancy in the world. Not bad for a totally manufactured and man-made island!

So how have they increased their life expectancy by 20 years since the 1950s?

It has been led and influenced by government and the implementation of policies and laws around food and lifestyle to make the healthy choice the only or unavoidable choice – changing the environment for better health.

Examples of this are: Making cars really expensive (only 11% of people own a car) so walking and public transport are more common; Funding community exercise groups and facilities for ease of access; Providing a Proximity Housing Grant for families to live close-by for convenience to look after ageing parents and relatives, and designing village-style suburbs with central and common areas for congregating and socialising.

Wouldn’t it be great if other countries, like Australia, were this forward thinking, for the future and betterment of a rapidly ageing population!

Ways to increase life expectancy

Let’s look at the secrets to longevity from each of the blue zones, as described by the elderly residents of these places.

Secrets from the Okinawa islands of Japan

· Longest living healthy population

· Warmer climate

· Rural lifestyle

· Gardening

o Exercise

o Connection with nature

o Growing fresh foods

· Social/community connection and purpose (moai)

· Life purpose and a reason to wake up each day (ikigai)

· Emotional resilience and endurance of difficulties

· Always have fun

· Never get angry

· Make people happy

· Laugh and talk

· Be positive

· Movement, flexibility and muscle strength

· Diet - range of medicinal foods

o Purple sweet potatoes, mulberry leaves, squid ink soup, seaweed, mugwa, goya, tofu and soy products

· Eat small portions (2000 calories) of nutrient-dense foods

· Stop eating when 80% full (hara hachi bu)

Secrets from Sardinia, Italy

· Mountainous villages

· Steep walking paths and stairs – incidental movement and exercise

· Faith and hope/religion

· Increased longevity for men being shepherds

· Decreased stress

· Being able to resolve/control stress/problems

· Diet

o Handmade sourdough bread

o Beans

o Wholegrains

o Minestrone soup

o Fresh veges

· Family care for elders; no nursing homes

Secrets from Ikaria, Greece

· History of resilience for survival on a remote island and living off the land

· Mediterranean diet

· Herbal teas – sage, rosemary, common mallow

· Raw honey (not boiled or processed)

· Wine (no chemicals or preservatives) in moderation

· Loving partnerships

· Celebrating – dancing, laughing, socialising

Secrets from Nicoya, Costa Rica

· Sense of purpose in daily life (plan de vida)

· Do everything manually/physically – incidental exercise

o Increased metabolism and burning calories

· Growing their own food

· Slow down and make time for family and friends

· Efficient and effective healthcare system

· Diet consists of black beans + corn + pumpkin = complete protein (the 3 sisters)

o And how the food is prepared

Secrets from the Seventh Day Adventists, California (Loma Linda)

· Religious and social environment

· Community with a focus on health and nutrition

· Vegetarian, fibre, nuts

· Physical activity in groups

· Volunteering (purpose, helping, social)

· Sabbath – rest, time out, relaxation

· This lifestyle/community focus provides practise, accountability

· Like-minded people with support to live a particular way – right tribe · Surround yourself with the right people to have healthy habits and behaviours


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