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Blue Zone Regions - Health and Nutrition

“The brutal reality about aging is that it has only an accelerator pedal. We have yet to discover whether a brake exists for people. The name of the game is to keep from pushing the accelerator pedal so hard that we speed up the aging process. The average American, however, by living a fast and furious lifestyle, pushes that accelerator too hard and too much.” - Dan Buettner

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Purpose of Blue Zone book

The Blue Zones, written by author Dan Buettner, reveals keys to living the longest life possible. What is a Blue Zone? Blue Zone refers to four different regions around the world in which the highest percentage of centurions live. A centurion is an individual who has lived at least 100 years. Armed with the latest research from the longevity experts on his panel, author Dan Buettner travels to the four areas that house the longest living inhabitants, Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. Buettner asserts in his book, The Blue Zone, centurions have managed to live longer and better because of the foods they eat, the social circles they keep, and their outlook on life. Dan Buettner has written the Blue Zone intending to show each of us how to apply these nine universal principles to our own lives. It reveals the world’s best practices in health and longevity. Most of us have more control over how long we live than we think.

About the Author and Panel Experts

Author - Explorer and writer, Dan Buettner is the founder of Quest Network, Inc., which has created more than a dozen online, interactive global expeditions. His team’s groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story, “Secrets of Living Longer,” which was a finalist that year for the National Magazine Award. In connection with the research in the world’s Blue Zones, Buettner has appeared on CNN, David Letterman, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, Today, and Oprah. Buettner lives in Minneapolis Minnesota.

Panel Experts

Steven N. Austad, P.h.D. -
Studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms of aging at the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio.

Robert N. Butler, M.D. –
President and CEO of the International Longevity Center – U.S.A., a policy and education research Center in New York City.

Jack M. Guralnik, M.D., PhD –
Dr. Guralnik is the Chief of the laboratory of epidemiology, demography, and biometery at the National Institute on Aging in Bethseda, Maryland.

Robert Kane, M.D. –
Robert Kane is the Director of The Center on Aging and Minnesota Geriatric Education Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He is a professor in the school of Public Health.

Thomas T. Perls, M.D., M.P.H. –
Dr. Perls is also a Director of the New England Centenarian Study, an associate professor of medicine and geriatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine.

About The Blue Zone Regions

The Sardinian Blue Zone – A mountainous Barbagia region of Ogliastra Italy; an island shaped like a kidney bean. Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily). The area of Sardinia is 24,090 square kilometers (9,301 sq mi). The island of Sardinia is surrounded by the French island Corsica, the Italian Peninsula Tunisia, and the Balearic Islands.

Sardinia’s Lessons

1) Eat a lean, plant-based diet accented with meat - The typical Sardinian diet contains beans, whole-grain breads, fruits, garden vegetables, and in some parts of the island, mastic oil. Mastic oil is derived from an evergreen shrub originating in the Pistachio family. The Mastic plant is cultivated for its aromatic resin, and is found throughout the Mediterranean region. Regular consumption of mastic has shown to absorb cholesterol, thus lowering high blood pressure and decreasing the risk of heart attacks. Mastic oil also has been proven to contain anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

2) Put Family First – Sardinians have strong family values. This ensures that each family member is cared for. It also has demonstrated that individuals growing up in strong, healthy families have lower rates of depression, suicide and stress.

3) Drink Goat’s Milk – A glass of goat’s milk contains vitamins and minerals that might help protect against inflammatory diseases of aging such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

4) Put Value on elders – Grandparents often bestows love, financial help, wisdom, and traditions that help motivate younger generations to achieve success. This may amount to healthier, well-adjusted and longer-living children. This may add up to an overall life expectancy bump.

5) Walk Around– Walking at least five miles per day as Sardinian shepherds do, provides many benefits. This simple exercise has shown positive results in cardiovascular health, while also improving muscles, bones, and metabolism without adverse distress on joints.

6) Drink a glass or two of Red Wine Daily – Most Sardinian Centurions drink moderate amounts of wine. Cannonau wine, found in Sardinia, has two to three times the level of flavonoids as other wines. Flavonoids have been referred to as nature's biological response modifiers because of strong evidence that supports their inherent ability to modify the body's reaction to viruses, allergens, and carcinogens. Flavonoids are a class of plant secondary metabolites. They also show anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-cancer potential. From these findings we can safely assume that moderate wine consumption may increase life expectancy while also lowering stress levels.

7) Laugh with Friends – Men from Sardinia have something referred to as, “a sardonic sense of humor”. They gather in their streets daily to laugh with and at each other. Laughter can lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, and levels of stress.

The Blue Zone in Okinawa

Okinawa consists of 161 islands, in a beautiful palm-tree-laden archipelago that stretches for 800 miles between the Japanese main islands and Taiwan. It has been compared to the Galapagos Islands because of its abundance of fauna, flora, and pristine rain forests. Okinawa also happens to be the home of the longest-lived people in the entire world. The simplest way to imagine Okinawa is as a “Japanese Hawaii” -an exotic laid-back group of islands with a warm, temperate climate, sugar-sand beaches, and palm trees hemming the turquoise sea.

Okinawa’s Lessons

1) Adopt an Ikigai – Older Okinawans have unmistakable established thought out reason to get up in the morning. This is called an Ikigai. This chosen life purpose gives them clear positions of responsibility. The Ikigai instills feelings of being needed well into their 100’s.

2) Rely on a Plant Based Diet – Most traditional Okinawans, eat mainly vegetarian diets. Their meals may include stir-fried vegetables, tofu, sweet potatoes, and goya. Goya, often translated as "bitter melon", is a vegetable extremely popular as a symbol of Okinawan health food. It boasts antioxidants and compounds that lower blood sugar. While Centenarian Okinawans occasionally eat some pork, it is traditionally reserved only for ceremonial celebrations and consumed in very small amounts.

3) Get Gardening – Almost all Okinawan centurions grew a garden. Gardening provides a source of daily activity that exercises the body with a wide range of physical motion, while also imparting emotional benefits by the reduction of stress; it also supplies fresh vegetables. Medicinal gardens are also widely cultivated in Okinawa. Mugwort, ginger and turmeric are staples of these gardens because of their proven medicinal qualities. By consuming fresh vegetables and herbs Okinawans seem to protect themselves from illness.

4) Maintain a Social Circle – The Okinawan tradition of forming a “club” or social circle provides security and social networking. These unofficial organizations lend financial and emotional support in times of need. More often they give members the confidence of knowing that there is always someone there to help.

5) Enjoy Sun – Vitamin D is produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D promotes stronger bone density and healthy bodies. Spending a little time each day in the sun supports optimal vitamin D levels year-round.

6) Eat More Soy – The Okinawan diet is rich with soy based foods such as tofu and miso soup. Flavonoids in tofu may help protect the heart and guard against breast cancer. Fermented soy foods contribute to a healthy intestinal ecology and offer favorable nutrition benefits.

7) Remain Active – Okinawans, like the Sardinians, are active walkers and movers. The Okinawan house contains sparse amounts of furniture; Meals are traditionally served while sitting on tatami mats on the floor. The fact that older Okinawans are constantly getting up and down from the floor builds lower body strength and balance, which later in life prevents dangerous falls.

8) Give Attitude – Hardship has tempered the attitude of Okinawans with an easy-going confidence. They are able to separate difficult early years as the past, while enjoying today’s simple pleasures. They’ve also learned the value of being likeable well into their older years. This keeps them humorous and young at heart.

Loma Linda California Seventh Day Adventists

Loma Linda California is located in the smoggy orbit of greater Los Angeles California. Loma Linda is a Seventh Day Adventist community located at the top of a hill, (Loma Linda is actually Spanish for lovely hill). The Loma Linda community has built its own Medical center (LLUMC) and University (LLU). The Seventh Day Adventist religion is a Christian denomination which is distinguished by its observance of Saturday, as the Sabbath, and an emphasis on the imminent second coming of Christ. The church is also recognized for its emphasis on diet and health.

Loma Linda’s Blue Zone Secrets

1) Find your own “time of rest” – A break from the demands of every day life, the 24-hour Sabbath day provides valuable time be with family, friends, God, and nature. Adventists believe this time relieves stress, strengthens social networks, and provides peace.

2) Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) – Adventists tend to have healthy BMI’s (meaning they have an appropriate weight for their heights). This is attributed to keeping active, and eating meat sparingly, if at all. Adventists with healthy BMI’s have lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, and less cardiovascular disease.

3) Get Moderate Exercise Regularly – The Adventist Health Survey (AHS) shows that you don’t need to exercise excessively to maximize your life expectancy. Getting daily, low intensity exercise appears to helps reduce heart disease and certain cancers.

4) Birds of a feather flock together – Adventists tend to spend lots of time together. They find social support by sharing values and habits with like-minded friends.

5) Snack on Nuts – Adventists who ate at least five servings of nuts per week, cut their risk for heart disease in half. They also lived about two years longer. At least four major studies have confirmed that eating nuts has a positive impact on health and life expectancy.

6) Give Something Back – The Seventh-day Adventist Church promotes volunteering by providing individuals with opportunities to contribute within their community. This encourages members to remain active, discover sense of purpose, and ward off depression by uniting to help others.

7) Eat Meat in Moderation – Many Adventists, like the Okinawans, follow a vegetarian diet. The AHS illustrates that consuming fruits, vegetables and whole grains seems to protect against a wide variety of cancers. For those Adventists who prefer eating some meat, only small portions are recommended, and served sparingly, as a side dish.

8) Eat An Early Light Dinner – “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper,” American nutritionist Adelle Davis recommended. A light dinner early in the evening helps to avoid flooding the body with calories during the inactive evening hours. This Adventist principle seems to promote better sleep and lower BMI.

9) Put more Plants in you Diet – Nonsmoking Adventists who ate 2 or more servings of fruit per day had about 70 percent fewer lung cancers. Adventists who ate legumes such as peas and beans, 3 times per week, had a 30 to 40 percent reduction in colon cancer. Adventist women consuming tomatoes at least 3 times per week had reduced chances of getting ovarian cancer by 70 percent. Eating lots of tomatoes also seemed to reduce cases of prostate cancer in men.

10) Drink Plenty of Water – The AHS (Adventist Health Study), suggests that men members who drank 5 to 6 glasses of water per day had a 60-70% reduction in fatal heart attacks.

Costa Rica’s Blue Zone

Nicoya, Costa Rica is the fourth and final Blue Zone. The Gulf of Nicoya separates the Nicoya Peninsula from its mainland, Costa Rica. Nicoya is a breathtaking coastal landscape of marine wetlands, jagged rocky cliffs, and extensive habitat. The water in the upper Gulf is rich in nutrients, allowing algae to flourish, which feeds fish and mollusks. Most of the area's inhabitants depend on food from the sea.

Costa Rica’s Longevity Secrets

1) Have a Plan – Successful centenarians repeatedly have a strong sense of purpose. This makes them feel needed and allows them to contribute.

2) Drink Hard Water – Nicoyan water has the country’s highest calcium content. This may explain lower rates of heart disease, stronger bones, and fewer hip problems.

3) Keep a Family Focus – Nicoyan centenarians generally still lived with their families. Children and grandchildren provide support, entertainment and a sense of belonging.

4) Eat Light Dinners – Nicoyans eat light dinners earlier in the evening. Once again, it is proven, that eating fewer calories may add years to your life.

5) Maintain Relationships – Nicoyan centenarians enjoy the company of their neighbors. They appreciate listening, laughing, and focusing on the blessings of life.

6) Work hard – Most Centenarians seem to have enjoyed hard physical work throughout their lives. They have found joy in the performance and repetition of their daily activities.

7) Get Sun – Nicoyans are regularly in the sun. As we already learned with the Okinawans, Vitamin D helps bodies produce strong bones and healthy body function. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with the development of depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Regular sun exposure, (about 15 minutes on the legs and arms), can improve your health and supplement your diet.

8) Embrace what you have in common – Modern Nicoyans keep their roots to the indigenous Chorotega and their traditions. This has enabled them to remain relatively stress Free. Their traditional diet still includes fortified Maize (what Americans call corn), and beans. This nutritional combo may be the best the world has ever known for longevity.


Dan Buettner and his team of experts have revealed the habits and attitudes which allow and support longevity in the four “Blue Zones” of Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. Lets now simplify and pin point how each of us can apply these principles in our own lives. Dan Buettner summarizes the nine keys that support longevity and a healthier lifetime below. Remember to incorporate one principle at time so as not to get overwhelmed. He suggests trying the easiest keys first, and then adding the harder ones later. Longevity is about ease and consistency.

Nine Keys to Apply to your Life

By Dan Buettner

De-convenience your home – lose the remote and get up to change channels, purchase a light garage door and lift it yourself rather then using garage door openers, use a shovel instead of a snow blower.
Eat Nuts – Have a can of nuts around your office, in your car, or at home so you can eat a handful each day.
Drink Sardinian wine or Red Wine daily – Sardinian canonau wine has the world's highest levels of antioxidants. Drink a glass or two of red wine daily. Caution: Over drinking will nullify the healthful attributes of wine. Moderation is key here.
Play with your children – Take a walk together or a nature hike. This is an excellent low intensity exercise and will strengthen family relationships; both are associated with longer life expectancy.
Grow a Garden – This proven stress reducer will put your body through a variety of motion and physical movement. It also yields fresh vegetables!
Hour of Power – Take an hour each day to nap, meditate, pray or walk. De-stressing is proven to slow the aging process.
Eat Tofu – Fermented Tofu is arguably the world's most perfect food; the longest-living people have eaten it for centuries. Tofu also contains a plant estrogen that makes skin look younger.
Get a Tan – Doctors are rethinking the notion of slathering yourself with sunscreen. Up to half of Americans is Vitamin D deficient--a condition that can double your chance of dying in any given year. A tan not only looks healthy, it is.
Lose large dinner plates – Use 9-inch dinner plates as the Okinawans do, and reduce calorie consumption by 20-30%Write Down a Personal Mission Statement – Know and put into practice your purpose in life. This can increase your life expectancy by an average of ten years.

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