Blue Zones Explained

Author, Dan Buettner, is credited with creating the label, The Blue Zone, to describe geographical areas around the globe in which people live longer. He partnered with National Geographic and the National Institute on Aging, along with demographers, to identify geographical areas where people lived longer and remained healthier. They used census data primarily to identify these areas.

What they found is fascinating, and reported in Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People who Live the Longest.

Buettner reports that geography is not the determining factor for longevity, although he identified the subjects of his research by location. Rather the common thread among the long-lived folk living in small pockets around the world is lifestyle. And within that broad descriptive category lies some specific characteristics of people who live the longest:

1. Physical Activity Daily: People who live longer tend to live in accommodations that require ‘effortless’ expenditure of energy, just in the course of daily living… walking around house and garden; living in two or three story homes; tending gardens for food and flowers, including bending and pulling weeds. Buettner describes a 104 year old man in Sardinia who was chopping wood at 9 in the morning; he had a glass of wine with breakfast.

2. A Sense of Purpose: An example in the book is a group of people who seek the advice of elderly persons in their social group, expressing high regard for their words and life experience. People who feel important as they age, who are regarded with esteem among the younger generations, seem to act out that sense of importance by living longer.

3. Don’t Overeat: Buettner describes a group of Seventh Day Aventists in Loma Linda, California, who practice their religion faithfully, including eating a lot of grains, nuts and seeds; eating nuts regularly is recognized by many researchers as a factor contributing to longer and healthier living. Consistently maintaining a healthy diet is good advice for every generation.

4. Friends and Family: Most researchers will agree that elderly people who experience the joy of a number of friends and family members at part of their daily ritual simply live longer. The research team discovered people who live longer have strong socio-cultural relationships with others. Religious connections, or strong family ties or cultural recognition of the value of the elderly may all contribute to longevity.

Buettner suggests consideration needs to be given not only to more years of life, but also to better years. His research clearly suggests these two—more and better—are closely tied amongst those on earth who tend to live longer.