What are blue zones? Why do its residents live longer than the rest of the world's population?

2023-10-31 2023-10-31T18:11:03Z
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ArabiaWeather - Chronic diseases are becoming more common in old age. While genetics to some extent determine your age and susceptibility to these diseases, your lifestyle likely has a greater influence.

Residents of the Blue Zones live longer.. How?

There are some places in the world known as “Blue Zones”. This term refers to geographical areas where the prevalence of chronic diseases is low and their residents live longer than elsewhere.

What are blue zones? Where is it located?

“Blue Zones” is an unscientific term given to the geographic areas that are home to some of the world's oldest people. It was first used by author Dan Buettner, who was studying areas of the world where people live exceptionally long lives. He called them "blue zones" because when Buettner and his colleagues were looking for these areas, they drew blue circles around them on a map.

What are blue zones? Why do its residents live longer than the rest of the world's population? Arab weather

In his book The Blue Zones, Buettner described five well-known blue zones:

  • Ikaria (Greece): Ikaria is an island in Greece where people eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and home-grown vegetables.
  • Ugliastra, Sardinia (Italy): The Ugliastra region of Sardinia is home to some of the biggest men in the world. They live in mountainous areas and usually work on farms.

  • Okinawa (Japan): Okinawa is home to the world's oldest women, who eat lots of soy and practice tai chi, a form of meditative exercise.

  • Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica): The Nicoyan diet is based on beans and cornflakes. The people of this area regularly perform physical functions in old age and have a sense of life purpose known as the "life plan".

  • Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California (USA): Seventh-day Adventists are a very religious group of people. They are strict vegetarians and live in close-knit communities.

Although these are the only regions discussed in Buettner's book, there may be unspecified regions of the world that could also be Blue Zones.

Many studies have found high rates of citizens over the age of 90 and 100 in these areas.

Interestingly, it is thought that genes account for perhaps only approximately 20-30% of life expectancy. Therefore, environmental influences, including diet and lifestyle, play a large role in determining your lifespan

What are blue zones? Why do its residents live longer than the rest of the world's population? Arab weather

Here are some diet and lifestyle factors common among people living in the Blue Zones

People who live in the Blue Zones eat a diet rich in whole, plant foods

The one thing the Blue Zones have in common is that those who live there eat primarily a 95% vegetarian diet. Although most groups are not fully vegetarian, they tend to eat meat only about five times a month.

Several studies, including one involving more than half a million people, have shown that avoiding red meat and processed meat can significantly reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and many other causes.

Instead, diets in Blue Zones are usually rich in:

  • Vegetables : They are a great source of fiber and many different vitamins and minerals. Eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and death
  • Legumes : Legumes include beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas, all of which are rich in fiber and protein. A number of studies have shown that eating legumes is associated with lower rates of death
  • Whole grains: Whole grains are also rich in fiber. Eating large amounts of whole grains can lower blood pressure and is associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer and death from heart disease.
  • Nuts : Nuts are great sources of fiber, protein, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Combined with a healthy diet, they are associated with lower mortality and may even help reverse metabolic syndrome

There are some other nutritional factors that determine each of the blue zones

For example, fish is often eaten in Ikaria and Sardinia. It is a good source of omega-3 fats, which are important for heart and brain health. Eating fish is linked to slower brain deterioration in old age and reduced heart disease

What are blue zones? Why do its residents live longer than the rest of the world's population? Arab weather

Residents of blue areas follow the 80% rule.

Other habits common in the Blue Zones are calorie restriction and fasting

Long-term calorie reduction may help prolong life. A 25-year study in monkeys found that eating 30% fewer calories than usual led to significantly longer lives.

Eating fewer calories may contribute to longer life in some blue zones. For example, studies of Okinawans suggest that before the 1960s, they were in a calorie deficit, meaning they were eating fewer calories than they needed, which may have contributed to their longevity.

Furthermore, Okinawans tend to follow the 80% rule, which they call “hara hachi bu.” This means that they stop eating when they feel 80% full, rather than 100% full. This prevents them from eating too many calories, which may lead to weight gain and chronic diseases.

A number of studies have also shown that eating slowly can reduce hunger and increase the feeling of fullness, compared to eating quickly. This may be because the hormones that make you feel full do not reach their maximum levels in the blood until 20 minutes after eating.

So, by eating slowly and until you feel only 80% full, you may eat fewer calories and feel full longer.

Another important part of the Blue Zone meal plan is to eat your smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then not eat for the rest of the day.

Exercise is part of everyday life

Apart from diet, exercise is another very important factor in aging

In the Blue Zones, people do not intentionally exercise by going to the gym. Instead, it is integrated into their daily lives through gardening, walking, cooking and other daily chores.

A study of men in Sardinia's Blue Zone found that their longer lives were associated with raising farm animals, living on steeper slopes in the mountains, and walking longer distances to work.

The benefits of these habitual activities have been previously demonstrated in a study of more than 13,000 men. The amount of distance they walked or the stories of stairs they climbed each day predicted how long they would live.

Current recommendations in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. A large study of more than 600,000 people found that those who did the recommended amount of exercise were 20% less likely to die than those who did no physical activity.

Getting more exercise can reduce your risk of death by up to 39%. Another large study found that vigorous activity led to a lower risk of death compared to moderate activity

What are blue zones? Why do its residents live longer than the rest of the world's population? Arab weather

Residents of the Blue Zones get enough sleep

In addition to exercise, getting enough rest and a good night's sleep seems to be very important for living a long and healthy life.

People in the Blue Zones get enough sleep and often take naps during the day. A number of studies have found that not getting enough sleep, or getting too much sleep, can significantly increase the risk of death, including heart disease or stroke.

A large study of 35 studies found that seven hours was the ideal sleep duration. Sleeping much less or much more than this was associated with an increased risk of death.

In blue zones, people tend not to sleep, wake up, or go to work at specific hours. They only sleep as much as their body tells them to.

In some blue zones, such as Ikaria and Sardinia, daytime siesta is also common.

A number of studies have shown that napping during the day has no negative effect on the risk of heart disease and death, and may even reduce these risks. However, the length of the nap seems to be very important. Naps of 30 minutes or less may be beneficial, but anything longer than 30 minutes is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and death.

Aside from diet, exercise and rest, there are a number of other social and lifestyle factors that are common in Blue Zones and may contribute to the longevity of people living there. These factors include:

  1. Religion and Spirituality : The blue areas are usually religious communities. A number of studies have shown that religiosity is associated with a lower risk of death. This may be due to social support and lower rates of depression.
  2. Having a life purpose : People in the “Blue Zones” tend to have a life purpose, known as “ikigai” in Okinawa or “plan de vida” in Nicoya. This is associated with a lower risk of death, perhaps through a positive effect on psychological well-being.
  3. Different generations living together : In many Blue Zones, grandparents often live with their families. Studies have shown that grandparents who care for their grandchildren have a lower risk of death.
  4. Healthy Social Network: The influence of your social network, known as “moai” in Okinawa, can affect your health. For example, if your friends are obese, you have a greater risk of becoming overweight, perhaps through social acceptance of obesity.


Source: healthline

This article was written originally in Arabic and is translated using a 3rd party automated service. ArabiaWeather is not responsible for any grammatical errors whatsoever.
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