I was jealous when I read Dan Buettner’s book- “The Blue Zone Solutions”. The one thing he mentions in his book too as a key ingredient(and I instinct-fully knew too) to a successful life was something that had always proved elusive to me. But, let me assure you there are many benefits to reading the book (and therefore this summary)
But, let me assure you-jealousy was not the only emotion I felt reading this book. There are many benefits to reading the book (and therefore this summary). So let’s start-
According to this lovely NYT times article, “The Blue Zones Solution,” takes a deep dive into five places around the world where people have a beguiling habit of forgetting to die. Each of these areas in the world is called a blue zone. Why? I believe it’s because blue is a symbol for water and water is a symbol for life and it’s also very calming; another key ingredient for a long life.
The five blue zones are as follows:
- The Italian island of Sardinia: residents of this area are culturally isolated, and they have kept to a very traditional, healthy lifestyle. They still hunt, fish and harvest the food they eat. They remain close with friends and family throughout their lives. They laugh and drink wine together.
- Okinawa, Japan: Okinawans have less cancer, heart disease, and dementia than Americans, and women there live longer than any women on the planet.Perhaps their greatest secret is a strong dedication to friends and family. They maintain a powerful social network called a “moai,” a lifelong circle of friends that support people well into old age. Okinawans also have a strong sense of purpose in life, a driving force that the Japanese call “ikigai.
- Loma Linda, California: They live as much as a decade longer than the rest of us, and much of their longevity can be attributed to vegetarianism and regular exercise. Plus, Adventists don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
- Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula: The Caribbean nation is economically secure and has excellent health care. But besides this, they live longer because of “plan de vida,” or reason to live. Another is a focus on family and a special ability to listen and laugh.
- Ikaria, an isolated Greek island: Today, Ikarians are almost entirely free of dementia; one in three makes it to their 90s. A combination of factors explains it, including geography, culture, diet, lifestyle, and outlook. They enjoy strong red wine, late-night domino games and relaxed pace of life that ignores clocks. Clean air, warm breezes, and rugged terrain draw them outdoors into an active lifestyle. Also family and friends are a priority.
The secrets of longevity they practice and we are recommended to for a healthy AND happy life are as follows. They are collectively called using the Power 9®.
- Move Naturally- This means making movement a something you don’t need to make time for (such as a gym) but something that happens more each day without thinking about it. Examples of this are-participate in nearby activities, enjoy an active commute or easily walk to restaurants.
- Wine @5- People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day, with friends and/or with food.
- Connect/Belong– This means physically to a few vs. virtually to more than many.The people we surround ourselves with strongly influence our health. They recommend-belong to live long.
- Right outlook- This is very hard to do till it’s done. I am still struggling with this one (on the professional front).Finding a reason to wake up can help us live up to seven good years longer. I plan to check out purpose guru, Richard Leider’s website to work on this power.
- “Hara hachibu”-eat till 80% full – the Okinawan, stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day. This one I try and work on daily; many days I fail, some days I succeed.
- Plant based diet: Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork, and in very small portions—is eaten on average only five times per month. Eat less dairy too but eat more home cooked meals.
- Downshift- Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.
- Right tribe: All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.
- Loved ones first: Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home.They commit to a life partner and invest in their children with time and love.
My additional few words and thoughts on this book:
The book obviously is very well written and has a lot more tips than I mention here but my purpose in writing this summary is first- to introduce the book and concept to those who may have not heard about it and second- to give a 1000 foot highlight of what it’s all about. The reason why I titled this blog the way I did is because even if we follow all the better eating guidelines; getting lifelong friends and family in our today’s world has become truly rare and yes just as essential. I would feel very blessed if I had my own ‘moai’ and if you do, so should you!