Alex ZanderOnce upon a time, 100-year-old people appeared only in fairy tales. Now they’re living next door. We have achieved the time-honored goal: how to live longer, and enjoy the extra years.

The second part of that statement, however, can be tricky. Celebrating one’s 100th birthday by working in the garden, then enjoying a leisurely meal with friends and family, laughing at the inevitable jokes about age, sex, and life in general . . . is definitely more attractive than dozing in a wheelchair while the staff blows out 100 candles.

People Living 100 Years and Beyond

As an anti-aging consultant, I’m intrigued with what we’ve learned.

One study, sponsored by National Geographic, identified five places where there’s a concentration of people living 100 years and beyond in great health. Researcher Dan Buettner and his team call these areas – Blue Zones.locations of where people live longer

Blue Zones are all around the world:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece

 

Buettner spent five years studying the oldest inhabitants. In spite of cultural differences (between, say, Japan and Costa Rica), there were some basic commonalities.

3 Key Factors of Long Life

These simple and powerful rules are present in all five Blue Zones: 

  1. Absence of stress,
  2. Prevalence of moderate activity,
  3. Simple diet.

People in Blue Zoners are engaged with community, church or family. They laugh often, and find ways to play.

Physically, Blue Zoners stay active throughout their long lives. They walk, or ride bicycles. They maintain muscular and cardiovascular strength with manual chores. (You don’t find many leaf-blowers or automatic garage-door openers in Blue Zones.)

healthy diet to live longerLongevity Diet

They follow a plant-based diet and eat few processed foods.
Their diet tends towards:

  • Locally grown vegetables,
  • Nuts,
  • Herbal teas,
  • Red wine,
  • Olives and other foods rich in anti-oxidants.

Loma Linda, one Blue Zone, is distinct from most of California as the home of Seventh Day Adventists– who are vegetarian, and observe the Sabbath ritually as a day of rest and relaxation.

A Few Missing Elements

While people in these communities eat well, they don’t eat much. These are not cultures which celebrate by over-indulging.

Okinawans believe in not eating to the point of fullness. They tend to eat significantly less than other Japanese.

Blue Zoners don’t smoke cigarettes or drink to excess. Their lifestyle is free of stress factors like deadlines, financial difficulties, and violence.

While scientists believe that genes play a role in longevity and health, research on Blue Zones shows that its lifestyle – not modern medicine, or technology– that is the major component.

7 Habits of Healthy People

To sum up, the seven habits of healthy old people:

  1. Stay active.
  2. Eat mostly plants; not too much.
  3. Connect with people.
  4. Know how to relax.
  5. Have purpose in your life.
  6. Drink wine in moderation, if at all.
  7. Follow whatever spiritual guide makes sense to you.

Simple Rules of How To Live Longer

Granted, we can’t all move to a Greek island, grow our own food, and live in a tranquil village. But there are practical ways to apply these principles, even in Miami, New York, or San Francisco.

  1. Walk or bike as much as possible. Choose manual methods of gardening or cleaning instead of labor-saving devices.
  2. Follow a diet of beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and red wine (if it’s acceptable to you). Avoid processed foods and red meat.
  3. Find your own way of de-stressing and relaxing: meditation, church, a leisurely meal with family or friends.
  4. Make time for your hobbies and interests. Whether bird-watching, golf or music, don’t give up the things that make your life worth living.

All told, this seems to be the most important principle for achieving longevity:

Enjoy life, so you’ll have more years to enjoy. 

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