In 2012, Dan Buettner set off around the world to answer a question that has obsessed philosophers and doctors since Methuselah: Why do people in some parts of the world live so much longer than others? His travels took him to Greece, Nicaragua and Japan, among others. Then he brought the lessons back to Main Street, USA through the Blue Zone Solutions. And today, we are going to take a look at 5 wellness tips from the healthiest countries around the world that can teach us to live a better, longer life.
Okinawa is an archipelago that lies about 360 miles off the coast of Japan. You will find the highest number of centenarians here: people above the age of 100. Okinawan seniors not only have the highest life expectancy in the world, but also the highest health expectancy. They remain vigorous and healthy into old age, suffering relatively few age-related ailments.
So, what are they doing differently?
- Okinawan seniors indulge in a lot of gardening activities, which gives them ample exercise, outdoor fresh air, and also lets them produce their own nutritious food.
- They eat a ; they live in walkable communities; their life is imbued with purpose.
- But the diet is obviously very different. They have the highest per capita consumption of tofu in the world, but eat very little fish.
- They also eat a lot of sweet potatoes and use turmeric to flavour their curries. Okinawans follow an old adage that says “eat until you are 80% full” instead of gorging.
They also have a sense of purpose, a positive outlook on life and close social support groups called moais. Moais can be defined as a committed social network that lasts a long time; kind of like a personal ‘board of directors’.
A Greek island that lies 35 miles off the coast of Turkey, Ikaria boasts of a high number of nonagenarians. Also, the seniors not only live to a ripe old age, they do it with minimal illnesses. According to the Blue Zones website, ‘Chronic diseases are a rarity in Ikaria. People living in this region have 20% less cancer, half the rate of cardiovascular disease and almost no dementia!’
So, why are these people so healthy?
- Boasting a mineral hot springs, Ikaria has been a health destination for centuries.
- Its residents stay active through walking, farming and fishing, but they also make sure to take time out to nap and socialize.
- In addition to their healthy Mediterranean diet, they eat a lot of wild greens and drink a herbal tea that’s full of nutrients.
- Their diet includes a lot of potatoes, beans and a salad greens ingenious to the island, called as horta.
An island about 120 miles off the coast of the coast, Sardinia is comprised of working people who are mostly shepherds and farmers. In the town of Ovodda that has 1,700 people, five are over 100 years old.
What’s the secret to their longevity?
- Again, these people eat a healthy Mediterranean diet that includes goat’s milk and cheese, and lots of fresh locally grown vegetables, prepared simply with olive oil and served with lemon, garlic and other spices.
- The diet is low in red meat and sugary foods. Most families eat meat no more than once or twice a week and eat only a small piece of lamb, lean pork, oily fish or shellfish accompanied by a lot of vegetables.
- Another key to health may be ‘cannonau’ – or what the Italians call “vino nero” – which means black wine. Researchers have found that cannonau contains the world’s highest amount of antioxidants – namely resveratrol and other health-boosting polyphenols.
- Resveratrol has been research-proven to boost sirtuins – longevity extending proteins in your body.
The inhabitants walk a lot and the communities are close-knit, meaning that these are people who don’t know what emotional isolation feels like. Their positive attitude, close interpersonal relationships, and the fact they take time out for leisure adds to their overall health and well-being.
Costa Ricans as a whole have the lowest rates of middle-age mortality in the world and the second-highest convergence of males age 100 or above. Out of a total population of about 4.5 million as of June, 417 Costa Rican centenarians were reported, many of them in Nicoya, a remote peninsula with an in-land community with the lowest middle-age mortality in the world.
- It’s been said that Nicoya’s local waters are unusually rich in calcium and magnesium, which strengthen bones and muscles.
- The local community is close-knit, has a deep faith in God, stay physically active throughout their life, sleep eight hours a night and maintain a healthy diet filled with rice, corn, plantain, beans and strange fruits like the vitamin-C-rich orange-like maroñon, the pear-like anon a and chayote, a squash-like vegetable.
- They also do not overeat nor do they consume too much red meat.
Loma Linda, California
The only location in the USA on the Blue Zone chart, Loma Linda is a community that includes about 9,000 Seventh-Day Adventists – a religious group that is significantly longer-lived than the average American.
What is so special about them?
- They focus on healthy habits, are all vegetarian, and do not smoke or drink.
- Besides the healthful habits integral to their belief system, Adventists eat lots of nuts, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly and tend to maintain a healthy weight.
- They nurture emotional and spiritual health, value their family relationships, and prize volunteering. They promote “pure water, fresh air and sunlight” as part of a good living formula.
- The death rate from cancer for Adventist men is 60 percent lower than that of the average California male; for Adventist women, it is 75 percent lower.
So, what do these longest living communities have in common? They have a limited or no consumption of refined sugar and any other processed foods. They also focus more on organic, freshly produced foods, and have a more vegetable-based diet. Everyday exercise is part of their lifestyle, and they have a deeper connection with nature, along with their local community.