It’s no secret that lifestyle plays a large role in our wellbeing. But according to Dan Buettner - a National Geographic Fellow, author and explorer - there are five areas of the world where the locals live extraordinarily long and healthy lives. These areas include Icaria (Greece), Ogliastra (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), and The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda (USA). According to his research, these five Blue Zones have several lifestyle and diet factors in common, all of which result in seniors living long and fulfilling lives of up to 100 years old.
Lesson 1: Being a vegetarian is probably a good idea
Studies have shown that a diet rich in meat can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, cancer and other ailments. People living in Blue Zones tend to eat a 95% plant-based diet that is rich in legumes, whole grains, vegetables and nuts. In the Mediterranean regions, fish is an excellent source of protein and healthy Omega-3 fats too. It's not to say you have to go completely vegetarian, but it might be a good idea to cut out some meat from your diet.
Lesson 2: Cut down on calories
Obesity is a well-known cause of chronic illness and premature death. However, more than simply watching their weight, people in Blue Zones tend to follow the 80% rule when it comes to eating. In Okinawa, they call this “hara hachi bu”, which means to stop eating before you are 100% full. Reducing the number of calories you consume, eating more slowly, and periodic fasting have all been shown to help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and weight, as well as improve overall health.
Lesson 3: Stay active every day
Exercise is another vital factor to ensure a long and healthy life. But rather than hitting the gym or exercising purposefully, people living in Blue Zones incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. From gardening and household chores to taking the stairs and walking instead of driving, these daily activities all add up to a significant increase in their lifespan.
Lesson 4: Get enough sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is another essential element to staying healthy. The body needs adequate rest to heal and repair. On average, seven hours of sleep each night is recommended. Daytime siestas, popular in the Mediterranean Blue Zones of Icaria and Sardinia, have also been identified as helpful. Naps should be no longer than 30 minutes.
Lesson 5: Stay social and live with purpose
A healthy social life goes a long way to ensuring mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, especially as we age. Another factor includes older and younger people living together or interacting regularly. In Blue Zones, grandparents often take care of their grandchildren during the day. Engaging in life-enriching activities or learning new skills also gives seniors a sense of purpose, and helps create a positive mindset.
We've designed all seven of our Assisted Living and Frail Care Centres around the Blue Zone philosophy of living. Residents enjoy a well-balanced and nutritious diet formulated by experienced dieticians. Landscaped gardens provide ample space for exercise and outdoor socialising, while a range of group activities, outings, exercise classes and hobbies encourage a healthy and fulfilling communal living experience.