National Geographic writer and explorer Dan Buettner’s latest book, The Blue Zones, focuses on centenarians, folks who live to be 100 years old and older. To qualify as a Blue Zone, a community must be largely free of afflictions like heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.
The five Blue Zone communities are located in Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Sardina, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.
“Only 25 percent of how long you live is dictated by your genes,” Buettner says. “The other 75 percent is lifestyle and environment.”
What do these five Blue Zones or Longevity Hotspots have in common that we can learn from? For one thing, there’s less stress to be found in these communities than elsewhere. There’s also much more emphasis on socializing, especially with family. Their diets tend to be plant-based with lots of beans (they eat very little red meat, if any), and the inhabitants exercise regularly.
Even though the religions in the five hotspots differ, having a strong belief in God is a common factor. While there’s been a backslide in reaching age 100 or more in some Blue Zone countries as a result of fast-food chains popping up, the folks right here in the U.S Blue Zone of Loma Linda, California are doing the best in terms of living well into their 100s. What’s interesting about this group, is that many of the inhabitants in Loma Linda are Seventh Day Adventists. Their tightly knit community is religious, and their religion promotes a vegetarian diet and avoidance of tobacco and alcohol.
Buettner’s not the only one digging deep into the secrets of staying vital and youthful well into old-age. Other scientists, many of whom are funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, agree with Buettner: They too say that only five Blue Zones exist in the world where the majority grow very old.
The good news, is you don’t have to move or change or religion to live to be 100 or older, but it sure helps to be around those with the same values and habits. If you’re set where you live, at least try to adopt some of the healthy habits from the existing Blue Zones: Eat more plant-based foods, exercise as often as you can, and quit smoking already!