Why do some people live long and healthy?

30 July 2019

There are places in the world called the Blue Zones where specific populations reach record-breaking ages. Why is it so, one might ask.

Yes, there are people in the world who not only have a longer life expectancy than the average, but their elders stay active and healthy for up to a hundred years or more without medical treatment or surgery! Welcome to the Blue Zones

Overall, the Blue Zones deliver 9 health lessons. To find out more, let us discover together here and in upcoming blogs the habit of these populations, their diet, their life priorities and what lessons we can learn.

You will see, to live long and fit is not based on magic!

9 common ingredients, 5 different territories

It was during a conference that Dr. Michel Poulain, a Belgian demographer specializing in islands of longevity, heard about the existence of a high proportion of centenarians in Sardinia. Thinking that there is an error on the numbers, he went to Sardinia, in January 2000, studied the cemetery registers carefully, met local centenarians in about forty municipalities and came to the conclusion that there was effectively longevity in this region.

Dr. Poulain and his team focused later on the municipalities where longevity champions live, delimiting their perimeter on a blue ink map, hence the term blue zones.

Five years later, Dan Buettner, an explorer and journalist for the prestigious National Geographic, finds another oasis of longevity champions on the island of Okinawa, Japan.

With a team of researchers, doctors and scientists, he then travels the globe in search of centenarians who are fit, in order to discover the secrets of their longevity.

He and his team end up finding 9 common basic ingredients and delimit 5 different territories: Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California USA, Nicoya in Costa Rica and Icaria in Greece.

Surveys and studies have focused on the traditional way of life of each of these regions, within populations that have not adopted the modern way of living, the modern fast-food eating such as pizzeria …

Zoom on Sardinia

Sardinia is a very mountainous island with rough pastures where the majority of men work as farmers or shepherds. To go visit a  friend or go shopping, Sardinians walk.

The famiglia (family) is tightly woven and remains primordial. There are no old people’s homes and the family supports elders like Maria Angelic, 102 years old. Moreover, unlike the rest of the Western world where staying young is venerated, in Sardinia there is no fear of old age.

A typical day of a sturdy yougn shepherd like 75-year-old Tonino (see photo below) begins around 4:00 am to feed his herd, cut wood, prune olive trees and feed his cows by 10:00 am.

Despite the hard physical work, Sardinians have very simple, lean and local diet. Meat is reserved for holidays. They drink wine every day.

As for stress, it is an unknown word for Sardinians.

Tonino Tola, 75 years old

To live as long as Sardinian centenarians, here are 6 things to do like them – and I quote:

1- Follow a lean diet based on fruits and vegetables, with a little meat.

The traditional Sardinian diet consists of wholemeal bread, beans, fruit and vegetables from the garden and, in some areas, lentisque oil. Sardinians have always been eating pecorino, a whole milk cheese from sheep raised in grasslands, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Meat is usually reserved for Sunday and special occasions.

2- Make of your family a priority

Family values ​​are deeply rooted in Sardinian society, and those who need help are always surrounded. We now know that people who come from united and close families are less exposed to stress, suicide and depression.

3- Long live the elderly!

Grandparents are a source of love and wisdom. They perpetuate traditions, pamper their grandchildren and push them on the road to success. Young people are more balanced and healthier, which increases their chances of living longer.

4- Walk around

Walking seven or eight kilometers a day, Sardinians strengthen their cardiovascular system, their muscles and optimize their bone metabolism. Walking, unlike a marathon or triathlon, is softer on joints. To have the same result, do at least an hour of brisk walking or an hour and a half of gardening!

5 Drink a glass of red wine every day

The Sardinian drink wine in moderation. Cantonal’s contain two to three more antioxidant flavonoids than other wines. Their moderate consumption of wine perhaps explains why Sardinian men are so little subject to stress!

6- Have fun with friends

The bleu zone men are famous for their “sardonic” humor. Every afternoon, they meet on the street to exchange jokes with friends. Laughter helps to relieve stress, which could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Text in italic adapted from Zones bleues– Où vit-on mieux et le plus longtemps ? – Dan Buttner. 

Next stop: Okinawa Japan.日本

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