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Secrets of the Blue Zones

Studies have proven that our genetic makeup accounts for only 20-30% of our longevity, which provokes the question “what constitutes the other 70-80%?” If genetics is the only factor completely out of our control, could it mean that the majority of our health outcome is within our control?

Did you know that there are places on our planet where people live longer and have higher concentrations of centenarians? What if you could tap into their secrets of longevity? Yes you can! Researchers have taken the time to study these people groups on your behalf and have revealed age old secrets to a longer, healthier, happier life. The Blue Zone Phenomenon is focused on various geographic regions that house the world’s oldest people.

These Blue Zones are five regions in the world in which people are living for one hundred years. They are:

  • The Italian island of Sardinia
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Costa Rica’ s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
  • Ikaria, an isolated Greek island

The people who live in these Blue Zones no doubt have secrets to a longer and happier life and there are some secrets that most of them have in common. Here they are for you to review and implement in your own life.

  1. Practice balance in your daily life. Enjoy in moderation that which is good and abstain from what is bad for your health.
  2. Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be food. It is very common in these regions for people to eat a predominantly plant-based diet. Vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits and nuts in healthy portions will prove beneficial. Meat intake in these regions is considerably less than average in the Blue Zones. Individuals who eat meat tend to consume it only a few times per month as opposed to everyday. Ensure you consume enough and eat slowly. Eating slowly not only helps you enjoy your meal more but may result in eating less because your brain has time to register when your stomach is full  and you can stop eating before you’ve overeaten.
  3. Remember exercise is medicine. Become engaged in physical exercise daily. Persons in the Blue Zones also tend to build physical activity into their daily lives by engaging in activities such as gardening and walking much more than using transportation.
  4. Practice moderation in technology. Spend time with family outdoors and enjoy nature. This helps you keep a healthy mind and wards off depression and anxiety.
  5. Use your mind carefully and wisely; be positive, be enthusiastic about life and have a brighter outlook on life. Spend time around positive people and build strong relationships.
  6. Develop wholesome habits and avoid damaging ones such as smoking and consuming coffee and alcohol.
  7. Get spiritually connected. Being religious has been associated with a better quality of life and lower death risk. Brain scans have shown that people who meditate are able physically to expand parts of their brains, growing bigger, fatter frontal lobes – the part that controls concentration, attention, focus and where we do much of our analysis of problems. Praying has similar benefits. U.S. research has shown that people who regularly attend religious services live longer than those who do not. Although some of this benefit must lie in the social connection, scans show the brain responds in a similar way to prayer as it does to meditation. 
  8. Get enough sleep. People living in Blue Zones usually get enough sleep and sleep as long as their body needs to. “Siestas” are also common, which are naps that last 30 mins or less. Naps longer than 30 mins are not beneficial to the body.

Hippocrates wrote, “If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask himself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.” Tools are available to help you change your health destiny, however, as Hippocrates states, if you wish to embrace good health, you must first let go of those habits that would impede you from attaining your full health potential. See what you can implement from this list and begin today.

To your health,

Dona, Cooper-Dockery, MD

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