How to Live a Long and Healthy Life
People in some countries have the luxury of living longer than ever before. This is partly due to advancements in medicine and social care as well as good nutrition. However, living a long life is only desirable if one has a good quality of life. A good quality of life includes being in a reasonable state of physical health as well as having a sense of purpose and meaningful relationships with people and the environment in which you live.
Brothers Nick and Dan Buettner have made it their mission to explore which aspects of diet and lifestyle lead to a high percentage of the inhabitants of some countries living to over 100 in a good state of health. They call these areas Blue Zones.
The top places for longevity are Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Icaria in Greece and Seventh Day Adventists in California. Although there is much diversity in what these populations eat and how they live the brothers found nine shared qualities.
Here’s what they found about these long lived healthy people:
- Plant foods – the bulk of their diets comes from plant foods, with beans or lentils being the cornerstone of most of their diets. Although some meat is eaten it is in small amounts and only about once a week.
- Eat less – these populations don’t obsess about what they eat in the way we do in the west but they do eat fewer calories.
- A small tipple – alcohol features in moderate quantities in most of these communities, except the Seventh Day Adventists. 1-2 glasses of wine with a meal may be beneficial, but binge drinking at weekends is not!
- Movement – going to the gym or running marathons do not feature amongst these long lived people. Instead they move in order to live their lives. They walk and cycle to get around. They have fewer conveniences to make life easier so they might pound their own flour or milk their own cows.
- Sense of purpose – people of all ages understand and can articulate their place in their community. They know why they get up in the morning.
- Time out – knowing how to wind down is an important part of health. Napping, ancestor veneration and faith based rituals allow people to take time out every day.
- Belong to a group – faith or regular religious activity helps to build a sense of community. These shared activities and rituals help give residents a sense of purpose and connection. Even if you do not have a religious belief a sense of belonging to a group with shared values and customs can enrich your life.
- Family bonds – there is a strong sense of love and support within families across generations. Aging parents and grandparents are kept nearby or in the family home. The isolation experienced by many people in the west does not exist in these communities.
- Healthy friendships – having a circle of close friends and a good social life are beneficial in many ways. It’s worth having friends who live healthily as dietary and lifestyle habits are “contagious”. If your friends are happy, eat well and are physically active this will help to motivate you to do the same.