Live Longer, Better, or Both?
No one ever sets out to be frail and infirm in their older years. And yet, that’s exactly where most people are headed. The majority of older Americans are sedentary, take multiple medications, and experience cognitive decline. Yet, we do have examples of healthy robust elders who are active, fit, and cognitively sharp. These energetic seniors live in the “Blue Zones”.
There are 5 blue zones in the world where residents live much longer and have low rates of chronic disease. For example, in Sardinia, Italy there are 21 centenarians for every 10,000 residents while only 4 in 10,000 Americans reach 100 years of age. So, what are Sardinians and other Blue Zoners doing or not doing that is different from most Americans?
Research shows there are several common factors across the blue zones:
- Family first. People in blue zones live close to family and interact frequently, as opposed to the United States, where families are frequently dispersed, creating high levels of aloneness.
- Less smoking. The single most effective way to live longer if you are a smoker is to stop.
- Social engagement. Blue zoners build their lives around friendship and connection far more than we do in the states, where there is more loneliness – especially in old age.
- A better diet. While the diets in blue zones vary, the common denominators are that they eat more plants. Example: a Sardinian eats the equivalent of 15 hamburgers a month while Americans eats 60. Blue zoners also eat far less ultra-processed foods.
- Constant moderate physical activity. Americans sit more and drive almost everywhere they go while people in blue zones typically walk or bike every day.
- Less stress. With a big focus on family and friends, blue zone residents tend to worry less about health, career, money, and material things as opposed to the American drive to pursue high-paying jobs and acquire more of everything.
Life Healthy, Life Longer
While we can’t all move to a blue zone, we can adopt many of the dietary and lifestyle habits that can assist us in living longer, better lives. This is not simply about adding more years; in addition to living longer, we also want a robust health span, which refers to how long we maintain a sharp mind, energy, and mobility. Now that’s worth pursuing!
As I said, nobody plans to be sick and frail in their later years, but most people aren’t proactively ensuring a different outcome. If you want to live a longer, healthier life, you need a program, a community, that promotes wellness.
I’ll describe more in the coming weeks so stay tuned. If you have questions or are ready to get started, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In health and wholeness,