Nine Habits to Live Healthy for 100 Years

We all want to live long, healthy lives. In the early 2000s, a few demographers discovered several areas they claimed produced the highest concentration of healthy 100-year-olds in the world. According to their research, people in these areas were 10 times more likely to reach age 100 than people in the US. While some aspects of their work are speculative and partly outdated, their five so-called Blue Zones provide inspiration for developing a healthy lifestyle anywhere in the world. So what are the five zones, and what are the nine common denominators making them so healthy?

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The Blue Zones

Ogliastra, Sardinia, Italy

  • The original research site out of which the Blue Zones project was born, the mountains of Sardinia at that time were inhabited by the highest concentration of centenarian men—due partly to a genetic marker linked to longevity, helped by the region’s geographic isolation.

 

Ikaria, Greece

  • On this tiny island in the Aegean Sea between the coasts of Turkey and Greece, residents experience half the rate of heart disease compared to Americans, as well as almost no dementia.

 

Okinawa, Japan

  • The tiny islands at the southern tip of Japan are home to some of the oldest women in the world, with exceptionally low cancer, heart disease, and dementia rates.

 

Loma Linda, California, USA

  • A community started by a group of Seventh-Day Adventists in the 1840s about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, its residents now outlast the average US life span by at least 10 years on average.

 

Nicoya, Costa Rica

  • In a country known for cultivating exceptional well-being, the residents of the southern peninsula city Nicoya are particularly healthy, spending only 15% on healthcare of what the average American does.

 

The Power Nine

Photo credit: Blue Zones, LLC

A team of researchers, anthropologists, and demographers studied the five areas listed above, looking for healthy characteristics they all had in common beyond just genetic makeup. They discovered nine lifestyle traits they claim were present in the healthiest, longest-living communities in the world. Here’s a look at the group’s Power Nine common denominators.

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Move Naturally

Photo credit: Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez, Unsplash

Incorporating natural, moderate activity throughout your day is associated with longer life, as many of the healthiest centenarians stay active in their gardens, walking, or in other forms of light work.

Tips: Drive less, use the stairs, and take an evening walk. See the health benefits of light activity here.

Purpose

Photo credit: Jamie Street, Unsplash

Studies show that having a clear sense of your purpose in life has concrete benefits on longevity. Without a foundational motivation, sustaining the discipline needed to make healthy behaviors into habits is difficult.

Tips: Get involved with local community development, donate your time, and take up a passionate interest. Learn more here.

Manage Your Stress

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Everyone has stress, but we don’t always know how to relieve it. Centenarians adopt simple, regular habits to destress, including afternoon naps, built-in time for reflection, and scheduled social time.

Tips: Watch a comedy, try yoga, or get solid sleep. See more here.

The 80% Rule

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The rule goes like this: eat until you are mostly full but not totally stuffed. The rule derives from an ancient premeal mantra intended to keep diners from eating too much.

Tips: Slow your eating, visualize a satisfying amount, and leave a bite behind. Learn more here.

Plant Slant

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Healthy centenarians mostly eat plant-based meals, and rarely, if ever, digest processed foods or added sugars. Additionally, long life is associated with only infrequent meat consumption, roughly five times a month.

Tips: Fill half your plate with veggies, reduce meat servings, and try fruit for dessert. See more here.

Moderate Alcohol

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A moderate amount of alcohol each day—roughly one to two glasses of wine—is associated with longer life in these Blue Zone communities, with moderate drinkers outlasting nondrinkers. The key is, of course, moderation, as well as enjoying a libation with friends and food. Some recent studies, however, counter this claim.

Tip: No need to start if you don’t drink already, be mindful about its effects, and have a heart-healthy wine.

Belong

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The vast majority of healthy residents of Blue Zones belonged to some kind of spiritual community where they participated in community events once a week. The ideas, relationships, and assistance provided by such groups tend to provide greater happiness and contentment, leading to more healthy habits.

Tips: Reach out, be open to perspective, and take responsibility. See more here.

Family

Photo credit: Ekaterina Shakharova, Unsplash

The closest ties we typically have are family members—but that can be our biological or chosen family. The essential part is having committed relationships into your older years with people who share your health and life goals.

Tips: Be intentional about together time, eat together, and ask good questions. See more here.

Social Network

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You learn it from an early age: Who you surround yourself with will determine what you become. Blue Zone centenarians have a tight-knit community, whose habits and outlooks positively influence one another. Values are contagious, from happiness to loneliness.

Tips: Find friends who share your values. See more here.

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