By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN-BC
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine
I have just re-read the book The Blue Zones and highly recommend it to those who want to live longer and better. Our bodies are meant to live to a healthy 90 years old…in reality we are living to age 78, most with many chronic diseases. Some of us believe longevity and overall health is determined by our genes, but science is proving that environment and lifestyle are responsible for 80% of our health. The “Blue Zones” are areas in the world where a higher percentage of the population live longer. Residents of these areas are able to retain health and vitality well into their 80’s, 90’s and even into their 100’s. Brothers Dan and Tony Buettner identified these areas as Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. Their book, The Blue Zones outlines nine lessons that are associated with health and longevity:
1) Move naturally - Be active without thinking about it. Walk, bike, garden. Do not sit for more than 20 minutes.
2) “Hara Hacha Bu” - In Okinawa, you will hear them chant this before meals. It is a reminder to stop eating when your stomach is 80% full.
3) Plant Slant - Avoid meat and processed foods. Eat a plant-based diet with beans and meat in small and limited portions. Strict Adventists in Loma Linda, California take their dietary cues from the Bible. Genesis 1:29 “Then God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed: it shall be food for you.”
4) Grapes of Life - Drink red wine in moderation and always with friends or family. Three quarters of a glass for women and two glasses for men daily (no saving up for the weekend binge ).
5) Purpose Now - Take time to see the big picture. Have a strong sense of purpose and be able to articulate it – it is why you wake up in the morning. This helps reduce stress and reduces the chance of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and stroke.
6) Down Shift - Take time to relieve stress. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to stress and chronic inflammation promotes age related chronic diseases. Adopt a daily stress management program and be amazed at the changes it will make in your life.
7) Belong - Participate in a spiritual community. Studies have shown that attending religious services—even as infrequently as once a month—may make a difference in how long a person lives.
8) Loved Ones First - Make family a priority. Invest time and energy in your children, your spouse, and your parents. Play with your children, nurture your marriage, and honor your parents in whatever way you can.
9) Right Tribe - Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values.
Small changes can make a big difference in your health—the choice is ours. Commit to changing one health behavior as outlined above and start your journey toward a longer life.