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Live the Secrets of the Blue Zones for a Long, Happy Life

Photo Credit: Blue Zones

A few months ago we shared bestselling author Dan Buettner’s video introducing some of the biggest secrets to why people living in “blue zone” have much higher than normal life expectancies. It was a promotion for his new four-part Netflix series, Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones that we just finished watching. This post shares a few of the secrets from Buettner’s Netflix series.

Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones

Dan Buettner is a National Geographic Fellow and bestselling author who has found five “blue zones” in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. The Netflix series Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones describes each region, and some of the key reasons for the longevity and also explains how Buettner applied these best practices in a community to increase their average life expectancy.

Where are the Blue Zones?

The original Blue Zones written about by Dan Buettner and visited in the series are:

Photo Credit: The Culture Ties
  • The Japanese island, Okinawa
  • The small, rural island of Ikaria, Greece
  • The community of Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California 
  • The mountainous island of Sardinia, Italy 
  • The Nicoya Peninsula on the Northeastern Pacific coast of Costa Rica

These areas have higher life expectancies and a large number of people who live to age 100. Some of these areas also have low rates of dementia and other age-related illnesses.

The series also shares how Buettner worked with Albert Lee, Minnesota to apply his secrets of the blue zones to raise the average life expectancies of its citizens. Buettner also visits the city of Singapore, which he has recently named as a 6th “blue zone” location. In 2019, Singapore had the highest life expectancy for any nation in the world (84.9 years, six years longer than the average life expectancy in the United States.)

Secrets of the Blue Zones

The graphic below shows what Buettner discovered as the “secrets” for longevity in each of his original five blue zone regions.

A few of the highlights to point out are:

  • “Hara Hachi Bu” in Okinawa is the idea to eat until you are 80% full and then stop.
  • Ikigai is the Japanese concept for your reason for being. You arrive at ikigai when you merge what you love with what you are good at, can be paid for, and the world needs.
  • The steep terrain of mountainous Sardinia helps residents maintain their stamina and balance.
  • Loma Linda benefits from their tight-knit community sharing a common faith.
  • Ikaria’s herbal tea, raw honey, and wine provide for friendly gatherings and healthy antioxidants while avoiding processed foods and sugars.
  • The Nicoya region features the three sisters in their healthy cuisine and a great attitude toward life.

Live the Secrets of the Blue Zones for a Long, Happy Life

Buettner combines the lessons from each of the original five blue zone regions into a simpler prescription for living a long, happy life into your 100s. His keys are to:

  • Maintain your relationships. The most important factor as you grow older is to maintain your relationships. This can be challenging as your friends become older (or die), so maintaining a role in your family is key. The isolated nature of many of the blue zone regions meant that people had to work together (and harder). Working keeps them busy every day, even as centenarians.
  • Eat wisely. Most regions grow their own food, and eat primarily plant-based diets with complex carbohydrates. All of the blue zones eat food*, not too much, and mostly plants. Click on the link to learn about the asterisk…
  • Move naturally and avoid slowing down or becoming sedentary. In other words, use it or lose it. Note that the blue zones are in regions with climates where you can continue to stay active throughout the year.
  • Maintain a positive outlook. Elders and centenarians continue to stay engaged and active in all of the blue zone regions. This might be as a family member, as a member of the community, in their career or faith, or in any other way. All of the areas respect their elders and tend to work together as a family. They laugh at the notion of nursing homes!

New Blue Zones

Buettner’s Netflix series shares his work with the small city of Albert Lee, Minnesota and his observations about Singapore’s recent success. I suggest you watch the series for these stories. The conclusion is that we can all focus on applying the secrets above to live a long, happy life!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to check out Dan Buettner’s collection of books related to the Blue Zones.

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