Carol Slager Times Correspondent
Blue Zones refer to areas around the world where people live much longer.
The term was coined by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer, who with his team identified five such areas: Okinawa (an island off Japan), Oliastra, Sardinia (an Italian island in the Mediterranean), Nicoya Peninsula (in east Costa). Rica), Ikaria (a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea) and the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda (a religious community in the valleys of California). These zones were named for the blue circles drawn on a map around areas with a high concentration of centenarians (100 years and older) during a demographic study.
Although Northwest Indiana is not listed as a Blue Zone, there are some lifestyle habits we can create to perhaps increase longevity. According to a 2018 article in Genetics, an Oxford Academic journal, genetic factors may be as low as 10% in determining lifespan, leaving many factors within our control.
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Derived from the lifestyles of the world’s longest living people in the Blue Zones, the Power 9 principles offer a comprehensive approach to achieving longevity and wellness.
Move Naturally encourages regular, moderate physical activity, such as walking, gardening or housework, integrated into everyday life.
Purpose provides a clear sense of direction and a reason to wake up each morning.
Downshift involves finding effective ways to manage stress through practices such as meditation, naps, or spending time with friends. Sleep is a priority as is enjoying a day of rest or worship each week.
The 80% rule advises eating until you are only 80% full, preventing overeating and promoting better digestion and weight control.
The Plant Slant emphasizes a diet based primarily on plants, especially beans, with moderate consumption of meat.
Wine at 5 indicates the enjoyment of moderate amounts of alcohol, especially wine, in social settings or with meals, adapted to local cultural and health considerations.
Belong encourages participation in faith-based communities or other group activities that foster a sense of belonging and support.
Loved Ones First prioritizes family, emphasizing the importance of close relationships, caring for children and older relatives, and choosing a lifelong partner.
Right Tribe focuses on maintaining a supportive social network that encourages and maintains healthy behaviors, reflecting the importance of positive social influences on health and longevity. Together, these principles form a holistic approach to living a longer, healthier life.
For people in the Blue Zones, 95% of their diet comes from plants or plant products. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards and chard are some of the best longevity foods. While meat is eaten, it is limited to only a few times a month and is enjoyed as a side dish or as part of a feast. Seventh-day Adventists are the only group that does not eat meat. Wild fish is consumed up to three times a week. Dairy products, especially cow’s milk, are minimized. Eggs are consumed in moderation, averaging up to three per week. Beans are a staple product, consumed daily. Refined sugars are limited, with a recommendation of no more than seven teaspoons per day. (The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables are not the problem.) Nuts are eaten regularly, about two handfuls a day. Bread, when eaten, is sourdough or 100% whole wheat.
Science does not fully support Buettner’s work, as many longevity benefits are based on observational evidence and are impossible to prove. For example, there is a lack of evidence that alcohol and wine contribute to a longer lifespan. Maybe it’s the social aspect that increases longevity and alcohol is along for the ride. On the other hand, several studies unanimously suggest that there are positive outcomes when some of the other principles are followed, such as reducing added sugars, increasing plant consumption, staying socially and physically active, achieving a purpose, reducing stress, and the enjoyment of meaningful relationships.
While climate may contribute to the overall health and lifestyle of residents in Blue Zones, it is important to note that the Power 9 principles focus more on lifestyle choices that can be adapted to different environments. The special climatic conditions of the Blue Zones may enhance these lifestyle practices, but they are not solely responsible for the longevity observed there. I guess we can’t blame our omission from the Blue Zone list on our cold, snowy, dreary winters. But we can get together with good friends and share a festive meal.
Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly on Get Healthy and inkwellcoaching.com. The views expressed are those of the author.