Be Blue! The 9 Pillars You Need to Know About Blue Zones

Be Blue! The 9 Pillars You Need to Know About Blue Zones

Have you ever heard of “Blue Zones”? This phrase refers to five different regions that researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world. Today, the life expectancy of the average American is around 78.2 years. Find out how many in these populations live past 100!

Dan Buettner, Blue Zones founder, identified these Blue Zones, and has since chronicled them in The Blue Zones, as well as the follow-up The Blue Zones Solution. 

These are the five regions: 

  • Okinawa, Japan - Females over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world. 
  • Sardinia, Italy - The world’s highest concentration of male centenarians 
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica - World’s lowest rates of middle age mortality, second highest concentration of male centenarians 
  • Ikaria, Greece - One of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia 
  • Loma Linda, California - home to the highest concentration of Seventh Day Adventists, who live 10 years longer than the rest of the country 

Through studying these five regions, Buettner distilled Blue Zone lifestyle to 9 pillars. Here are some takeaways from research: 

  1. Move naturally. Exercise for Blue Zone people isn’t gym-based. Instead, it is built into their daily lives by gardening, walking, cooking, and other house chores. For example, Ikarians mix food by hand versus a blender. 
  2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida”, both translating to “why I wake up in the morning.” Examples of ikigai could include aspects related to one’s social identity, like work or family, or the pursuit of self-realization, such as hobbies or travel, activities that are seen as ends in themselves. Unlike the English term “purpose in life”, ikigai doesn’t necessarily translate to doing large or extraordinary projects that promise to lift one above everyday experiences. "Ikigai” projects can also be a humble daily pursuit. 
  3. De-stress. Stress isn’t just a Northeast thing!  The places with the most centarians have routines to shed stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians do happy hour. 
  4. Eat until you’re 80% full. Okinawans follow this rule, which is known as "hara hachi bu." This makes it harder to consume too many calories which leads to weight gain, obesity, and other chronic diseases. Equally important, it helps encourage mindful eating. Blue zoners eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and stop eating for the rest of the day. 
  5. People in Blue Zones eat a 95% plant-based diet, consuming 3-4 ounces of meat around five times a month. Many studies have shown that avoiding meat can significantly reduce the risk of death from heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Blue Zone diets are usually rich in vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Olive oil, which increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol, is the most often used plant-based oil in Blue Zones. The macro breakdown is 65% carbohydrates, 20% fats, and 15% proteins. Read more on the Blue Zone diet here. 
  6. Wine at 5. Except for Adventists, people in Blue Zones drink 1-2 glasses of alcohol per day, with friends and/or with food.   
  7. Find your community. Most of the Blue Zones are religious, with the majority of people belonging to a faith-based community. Many studies on faith and religion have shown that being religious is associated with a lower risk of death.  
  8. Loved ones firstIn Blue Zones, family members are often close, with grandparents often living with their families. Studies have shown that grandparents who look after their grandchildren have a lower risk of death. Blue zoners tend to commit to a life partner, which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy. 
  9. Right tribe. The world’s longest lived people chose or were born into groups of five friends that committed to each other for life.   

The PIH Perspective

As it turns out, a lot of the lifestyle changes we suggest align with the Blue Zone practices. In particular, our Brain Health Program emphasizes the importance of eating brain-healthy foods and staying socially connected, while our Metabolic Reset Program looks to deepen the mind-body connection when eating.

Remember, aging isn’t a bad thing - as long as we remember to grow as time passes. Every day on Earth is a good day if you make it that way. As we like to say, aging is just another word for living.

Call our office at 609.512.1468 to book a free 30-minute Discovery call or to book an appointment.