The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner
Demographers discovered a region in the mountains of Sardinia with vibrant 80 year olds, 90 year olds who still lifted sheep over fences and farmed their own land, and people 100 with good memories and decent quality of life. The researchers circled the areas with especially healthy elders in blue ink so that they could return to study them in more detail. The specific areas in Sardinia and later areas in other regions of the world became known as Blue Zones.
The four known blue zones are Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. In his book, Mr. Buettner visits each of these regions, tracks down the centenarians, and asks each one them why they have been so healthy so long. Of course, they don't know and the scientists studying them don't know, but everyone has a theory. More important than the theories in this book are the habits in the four different cultures that overlap.
The fountain of youth, as far as Mr. Buettner and the scientists he traveled with can tell, is a lifestyle and a mindset. The book includes a chapter on creating your own blue zone, right in your house--not on a mountain top or on an island. There are nine behaviors to cultivate. First is functional exercise, don't just go to the club to exercise, build movement into your life. Second, cut calories by 20%, do as the Okinawan elders do and say before you eat hara hachi bu--may I stop eating when I'm 80% full. An easier way to think of this is to eat until you're no longer hungry instead of until you're full.
The third lesson is to eat mostly plant based foods, avoiding meat and processed products. The centenarians profiled in the book eat meat on holidays or for special occasions--usually once or twice a month. Drink red wine in moderation--two glasses a day, every day. Lesson five: have a life purpose. Figure out a reason to get out of bed every day and you'll have more days to get out and meet that goal. Six, reduce stress--it's on every list and it's a big part of this one. Shepherds and fishermen usually go with the flow, and that's one of Mr. Buettner's factors for a long healthy life. The seventh take away from studying healthy elders is the importance of a religious community. Don't just belong to a church, be involved with the church--sing in the choir, join the vestry, or teach Sunday school. Lesson eight is to put loved ones first. The time these centenarians put into their families comes back to them in care and love as they age. A MacArthur study of over a thousand people in their seventies showed that those living with their families had sharper mental and social skills. And finally, social connectedness leads to greater longevity. It doesn't matter what kind of connection--just be connected.
The good news is that Good News Girlz events provide a wonderful opportunity to drink wine, reduce stress, and hang with nice people. Join us and even if we don't live to 100, we'll have fun for the years we have.