Lessons From the Blue Zones

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

October 13, 2014

  • The problem with our chaotic lifestyle
  • Lessons from the Blue Zones
  • Do you need an attitude adjustment?

I see so many patients who are caught up in the rushed and frenzied American lifestyle. They feel like they have to do it all, and they have to do it right now.

The problem is, it’s not making them happy. They’re missing out on quality time with their family and friends. They aren’t taking time to enjoy the things they love. A lot of them are too busy to get to know their neighbors or anyone else in their local community. And almost all of them are concerned about growing old and becoming dependent on others to take care of them.

Well, if you’re anything like these patients – rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off – it really does put you at higher health risk. All of that stress produces a chronic state of inflammation in the body. And, as you well know by now, inflammation is at the root of today’s most common health concerns.

This is one place where we can all learn some big lessons from the “Blue Zones.” These are areas of the world where a fulfilling lifestyle provides the secret of eternal youth.

You see, people who live in Blue Zones live to be well over 90 – sometimes even over 100 years of age. But they aren’t like us Americans. They don’t rush through their lives like it’s a race to the finish line. And the idea of becoming useless or a burden to others as they grow older isn’t something they even think about.

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That’s because in these regions, people who are in their 80s and 90s live like they’re 30 years younger than their age. Unlike here in the U.S., these elders are honored, respected and quite active in their communities.

What do the Blue Zones have that we don’t?

There are many lessons we can learn from these people to extend our own lives. Here are just a few of them, that can help you live longer and healthier – even well into your 90s and perhaps beyond…

Develop a true sense of purpose. People in these regions are filled with purpose and a reason for being. For example, the Okinawans in Japan recognize ikigai – the reason for waking up every morning. Similarly, those in the Nicoya, Costa Rica, Blue Zone nurture their plan de vida – their life-long sense of purpose.

This strong sense of purpose provides a buffer against stress. And, it might be why these people live longer than most others and have fewer strokes and heart attacks.

In the U.S. we tend to equate purpose with our job titles, the amount of money we earn, and the things we can buy with that money. But work in the Blue Zones is simple. It’s fulfilling and active. Retirement doesn’t exist. They work well into their golden years, because the years truly are golden. They don’t want to “retire.”

So, it’s important to find a purpose that doesn’t involve job status or earnings – something that will carry you well into old age.

Put family and friends first. Becoming isolated is a common problem for aging adults here in the U.S. This isn’t a concern for people in the Blue Zones. Socializing, caring for family, taking time to laugh, and enjoying the beauty of life are all part of what keeps these folks healthy and happy well into their 90s and right into their 100s.

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So, get out and get active. Spend that time visiting friends and family. Become involved in your community. This will encourage a positive attitude toward life and provide a support network as you age. Plus, plenty of social activity helps ward off dementia, which is not nearly as common in Blue Zones as it is here.

Head outdoors to move your body. The amount of physical activity people in the Blue Zones get is tremendous. They’re constantly outdoors, working in their gardens or shepherding their animals. This provides plenty of activity that builds strong muscles and a healthy heart. It also exposes them to much-needed sunshine to keep their vitamin D levels high – something severely lacking here in the U.S.

I always suggest walking for 30 minutes each morning and evening with several bursts of added intensity. However, if you want to live in your own Blue Zone, consider hiking through the woods or finding a hilly path for your next adventure. But don’t just stroll… make sure to step things up every now and then by walking briskly for a few minutes at a time.

Make beans, fruits, nuts and vegetables the mainstays of your diet. People in these regions have straightforward eating habits. They receive a mountain of abundance from their own hands… beans (which are a big part of their diet), veggies, fruits, nuts and fish. And it’s all 100% natural and delicious.

Additionally, they typically eat while sitting on the floor. This keeps their bodies moving up and down. Gently – just like my recommendation for gently moving your body.

Organic, plant-based foods should always be the centerpiece of your dinner plate. You can eat meat every now and then, but don’t eat too much of it… I recommend keeping your meat consumption low – at about 13% of your diet.

You may not live in a Blue Zone, but you can gain many of the health benefits by developing a Blue Zone way of life and applying it to your own. Here’s one more lesson we can learn from these people…

Give yourself an attitude adjustment!

People who view their age from a positive perspective tend to live about seven or eight years longer than those who view it negatively. In other words, the more optimistic you are about aging, the longer you’ll live.

This echoes the views of those who live in Blue Zones. They don’t worry about cancer, heart disease, diabetes or dementia. They don’t worry about growing old before their time. In fact they pretty much don’t worry about anything at all. Instead, they enjoy their lives and expect to live to a ripe old age.

So, slow down. Stop worrying. Eat well and keep your body moving. Enjoy your friends and family. Adjust your attitude on aging, and begin experiencing your life in a deep and meaningful way – like a fine wine that’s just reaching full flavor.

Mishra B. “Secret of Eternal Youth; Teaching from the Centenarian Hot Spots (“Blue Zones”)” Indian J Community Med. Oct 2009; 34(4): 273–275.

Association for Psychological Science. “Having a sense of purpose may add years to your life.” ScienceDaily. May 2014.

Kim ES, et al. “Purpose in life and reduced incidence of stroke in older adults: ‘The Health and Retirement Study.'” J Psychosom Res. 2013 May;74(5):427-32.

Kim ES, et al. “Purpose in life and reduced risk of myocardial infarction among older U.S. adults with coronary heart disease: a two-year follow-up.” J Behav Med. 2013 Apr;36(2):124-33.

Levy BR, et al. “Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging.” J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Aug;83(2):261-70.