Blue Zones

Gateway Garden Center

by Katie Cardner

We often hear people say “life is short,” but in five unique places in the world, that isn’t the case. These seemingly magical places are home to a population of people over 100 years of age. In fact, the people living in these pockets are 10 times more likely than the average American to reach the age of 100. By looking into the habits of each of these cultures, it is easy to see why they have found a way to live longer than most of the world. By taking a page from their book, we can easily add years onto our lives. Just follow their advice:

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Sardinia, Italy

The Italians toast with the phrase “chin don” – meaning “health for a hundred years.” Nowhere in Italy is this truer than on the island of Sardinia. There are a few things the Sardinians attribute their longevity to, one of which is their genetics. Most Sardinians have the M26 marker, a rare gene linked to longevity. Although they have a genetic advantage, their lifestyle choices are the main reason they are outlasting the rest of the world. Living on a small island, Sardinians are secluded from others, which allows for their culture to be very close-knit. This sense of intimacy builds very strong relationships among friends and family, which reduces stress levels. They eat a Mediterranean diet and incorporate herbal teas into their daily routine. My two favorite habits of the Sardinians are their love of wine and napping. They attribute a daily dose of each luxury to their longevity.

Ikaria, Greece

Just 1,000 miles away is another Blue Zone in Ikaria, Greece. Like Sardinia, Ikaria is an isolated area with a strong family bond. They make socializing with their neighbors a priority. They have a slower pace of life, resulting in much less stress than Americans experience. They live in the mountains, which provides fresh, clean air and forces them to be more physically active. Like the Sardinians, they attribute their consumption of red wine to their longevity. So cheers! – or as the Greeks say, yiamas!

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa is another little island located south of Japan. Okinawa has had a very long reputation for longevity. The island is often referred to as the land of immortals. In Okinawa, the rate of cancer, heart disease, and stroke is significantly lower than in America. The Okinawans eat a mostly vegetarian diet. They also stay active by harvesting their crops themselves. If you ask them what their most important custom is, they would say their commitment to friends and family.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

In South America, we find another Blue Zone located in Nicoya, Costa Rica. Like Okinawa, Nicoyans attribute their longevity to their strong family bonds. They stay away from processed foods and eat antioxidant-rich fruits. The Nicoyans believe in maintaining an active lifestyle and a positive outlook on life.

Loma Linda, California

Closer to home is a Blue Zone in California. One of the interesting characteristics of this group is their strong religion. The town of Loma Linda is home to 9,000 Seventh-Day Adventists. The Adventist church instills the practice of vegetarianism and physical activity. The people of Loma Linda make much healthier food choices by avoiding sodas and junk food.

What do they all have in common?

• Strong family relations and social engagement
• No processed foods
• Wine (red)
• Vegetarianism /Semi-Vegetarianism diet
• Physical Activity

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What can we take from this?

For starters, make time for the people you love. Having a community of support can significantly decrease levels of stress, allowing us to live healthier, longer lives. Another idea: eat right! For our whole lives, we’ve been told to eat our vegetables and exercise. If we listen, we’ll live long enough to know that it works! Another tip: relax a little! In America, we think of taking time for ourselves as luxurious and unnecessary. Giving yourself time to relax and reboot is essential for a long, healthy life. So pour yourself a glass of some red wine and unwind; 100-year-old you will be thankful you did.


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