Studies show that only 20% of our longevity is dictated by genes, 10% is dictated by medical technology and the rest depends on our environment and lifestyle. In a study that went beyond the restricted environment of laboratories and involved several professionals from different areas, Dan Buettner visited 5 areas around the world where statistically people live longer. He has called these regions Blue Zones, full of people over 100 years of age who, from generation to generation, live longer and live well.
Fourteen villages in Sardinia, Italy. Some isolated villages in Sardinia, Italy, have a large number of people living over 100 who adopt a very specific diet: their meals almost always include a type of bread locally produced, probiotic cheese made from goat cheese and homemade wine. In their society, family always comes first. Everything they do is motivated by family and this is considered priority and the center of everything. In these villages, the old people are valued for their wisdom, they constantly advise the young as well as local political decisions.
Okinawa Island, Japan. A population that basically eats vegetables, following a 200-year diet that teached them to stop eating before their stomach is completely full. In Okinawa, there is no loneliness. At the age of five, people become part of clusters, small societies that help each other throughout their whole life. The purpose of the inhabitants of Okinawa is very clear, it’s almost a mixture of purpose and responsibility: give to receive it in return. Another curious fact of Okinawa is that women are the spiritual leaders there.
Loma Linda, California, United States. A large community of Adventists live there; they are conservative Christians who live a decade longer than the average population of the United States, and they are not isolated on an island in Japan or in the Mediterranean. How is this possible? Although not geographically isolated, they have culturally isolated themselves. Every week, the Adventists maintain the Sabbath, when they stop their usual activities for a day to dedicate themselves to God and being in nature. Their diet, based on some biblical passages that dictate that God made the trees and fruits for man’s survival and does not include meat. They live in a strong community, which is always meeting up and that values manual labor and physical activities.
Nicoya, Costa Rica. A poor community, but with the lowest death rates in middle age in the world and highest life expectancy, reminds us that longevity is not synonymous with wealth. Their diet is based on ingredients that present all the amino acids our body needs. Their simple life in community coined the expression “pure life,” which they use as “good morning.” It shows in its essence the “feeling of being well, even in the purest simplicity.”
Ikaría, Greece. This geographically isolated area has many old people with over 100 years of age who adopt a Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, beans and herbs – not only as seasoning, but also as ingredients for teas with anti-inflammatory properties. The island inhabitants grow their own food, few of them have cars, and they are very engaged in the community life.
Dan took 27 trips over 5 years to the Blue Zones to discover that the secret of longevity for these people was not just in their diet or a genetic component. Hearing one of the interviewees say the phrase above, he realized that it was about much more than that: it was about simply not struggling to get there. With all interviewees, Dan realized that no one struggled to achieve a full and healthy old age. The inhabitants of these regions have simply let longevity arrise. They did not follow recipes, nor go to the gym thinking about living longer or conscientiously exercised a state of mindfulness. They just lived.
But they lived in an environment that provided everything they needed without even realizing it. In these zones, people are encouraged to grow old well as part of every habit, every small task of the day. They exercise in daily activities, baking bread, planting, moving around the villages. They are always active, performing tasks that encourage their bodies and minds. They include meditation in their routine, or take a nap, or drink a glass wine, every day. They eat adequately, without haste. For them, family comes first and faith is very present. And finally, they have a selected network of friends, who reinforce these habits.
The inhabitants of Blue Zones have as many stressful situations and concerns as we do. The difference is that here, far from them, in the western world, we are used to a less healthy lifestyle, a world of easy and abundant things. Here, we don’t move naturally (so we have to go to the gym), we don’t eat well as a usual part of the routine (unless we decide to start a diet) and are not always encouraged by our society and network of friends to opt for positive habits (when was the last time you were invited to an afternoon of salad with friends?).
Longevity has more to do with a natural path arising from a lifestyle than with an artificial path forced upon ourselves. As you read through this book and recall all the lectures, think about it: instead of trying to use one or another technique in your life, you should seek a deeper change in your lifestyle as a whole. First of all, create a lifestyle that promotes a better life. If you create a healthier and happier environment around you, you will achieve longevity. Better than that, you’ll be able to build a naturally happier life while you get there.