Secrets to living well and living longer
By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board Certified Chiropractic Pediatrician and nutrition counselor
Imagine a life with very few to no health problems, your memory is still intact, you are not taking any medications, and you can move and walk with ease. Could you imagine that life beyond 100 years of age? If you live in one of the “blue zones”, this is not unusual.
There are five Blue Zones in the world: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda California where people commonly not only live to be over 100 years of age, but have their mind and body still performing well for them. They seem to have discovered the secrets to living well and living longer. There are lifestyle characteristics that they have in common despite being in vastly different geographic regions. Dan Buettner, a National Geographic journalist, has been reporting on the Blue Zones for many years. The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine published an article in 2016 that identified nine common practices that may be the key to not only living longer but living well as you age. Your lifestyle choices not your genetics contribute about 80% to the state of your health and how long you live. Here are the nine things people who live better and longer have in common.
1. Blue zoners have a sense of purpose. They have a reason to get up and get moving everyday even into the golden years. Having a sense of purpose even after “retirement” can add up to seven years to your life.
2. People living in the blue zones eat a plant-based diet of vegetables, in season fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, and whole grains. Vegetables and fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. Nuts and seeds supply your body with good fats, minerals, and fiber. Legumes and lentils are packed with fiber, plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals. Eating a cup of legumes daily can add up to four years to your life. Whole grains are typically consumed by blue zoners as sourdough, sprouted grains and steel cut oats. Choose organic as much as possible to limit your exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and other toxins and increase your overall nutrient content.
3. Stress happens no matter where you live. Blue zoners take time daily to decompress by taking a nap, praying, or enjoying a glass of wine with family or friends. Controlling your stress will also decrease chronic inflammation and the chronic diseases associated with it such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.
4. Eating less is a frequent practice of blue zones where they stop eating before they feel full. Also eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Eating most of your calories in the earlier part of the day along with eating less helps to keep you trim as you age. Your metabolism is lowest later in the day and calories consumed are more likely stored as fat. The centenarians in the blue zones have this figured out.
5. Exercise is not something that people living in the blue zones do, but part of who they are. When you live in the blue zone, you are not trying to fit a workout into the day, their daily lifestyle involves movement. They walk and ride a bicycle often and their lifestyles are active as compared to the sedentary lifestyle of many Americans. If you want to live longer and better, remember to move every day in the form of walking or other exercise. A good goal is at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week which is only about 20 minutes a day.
6. Blue zoners do enjoy wine daily, but only one to two 5 ounce glasses and red over white. They consume it with meals and with family or friends. People in the blue zones do not binge drink on the weekends.
7. Keeping the faith is an important attribute to longevity. Your religion does not matter but attending a faith-based service can add between 4 and 14 years to your life.
8. Have you ever heard you are who you associate with? Blue zone inhabitants have a social circle that supports a healthy lifestyle. If you want to stay on track with healthy eating, regular exercise, and other habits of longevity then surround yourself with others who want that as well.
9. Family is first and foremost for the centenarians living in the blue zones. Having parents and grandparents close by has been shown to lower disease and mortality rates. It fosters relationships between children and grandparents which is something different from what parents provide but just as important. Also having a spouse or committed life partner can add up to three years to your life. Family and positive relationships are one of the keys to living longer and better.
People who live better and longer do not consume processed and fast foods. They do not consume added sugar. They consume little dairy but do enjoy goat and sheep milk cheeses. Blue zoners also do not consume any refined grains. Grass fed, organic meat and wild caught fish are the protein sources for a long and healthy life, but only three to four ounces with much of a meal coming from vegetables. They also get a good portion of protein from legumes, lentils, seeds, and nuts. Good fats are abundant in the diets of blue zone inhabitants with the type varying depending on the geographical area.
You do not have to live in a blue zone to live a long and healthy life. You can live better and longer by incorporating some or all the common lifestyle practices of the blue zone inhabitants. Remember, it is never too late to make a shift in health.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs is a board certified chiropractor and nutrition counselor at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, or call 715-362-4852.