The average U.S. life expectancy is 78 years; however, the human body has the capacity to live to the ripe old age of 90 or older. With only about 10 percent of longevity dictated by genes, it seems that there’s probably something we could be doing to retain those dozen or more years of life.
At least that’s what National Geographic fellow and New York Times best-selling author, Dan Buettner, thought. Along with his team, he found the areas of the world where people are living the longest (commonly into their 90s and 100s): Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy (Nuoro Province); Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. Then he set out to discover what folks in these communities called “Blue Zones” have in common that might account for how much longer they are surviving, largely without chronic illness, than the rest of us.
It turned out to be as simple as how they are living their lives.
Activity. They’re not gym goers or joggers, but instead make regular physical activity a natural part of their day. They walk to the store and friends’ houses, they take the stairs, and they mix that cake or trim that shrub by hand.
Outlook. While they take time out of their day to pray, meditate or just relax, they also have a sense of purpose their entire life. In most of these cultures, there’s not a stark separation of work and life, and there’s no such thing as “retirement.” Many are still working on some level into their 90s and even 100s.
Diet. They primarily eat a plant-based diet with plenty of nuts and legumes and practice strategies to keep themselves from eating more than they need to feel full. They also drink alcohol in moderation, particularly wine.
Socialization. These communities put their families first and revere the wisdom of their elders. Multiple generations of families live together and in these living arrangements, the seniors not only live longer but also positively impact the lives of the youngsters in the family. They also live a faith-based life, which can result in four to 14 extra years of life, and surround themselves with people who influence their lives in positive ways.
For more information about Blue Zones, watch Buettner’s 2009 TED Talk or read his book, The Blue Zones: Lesson for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.