Sex, wine and naps: the health secrets of centenarians
The 'Blue Zones' are geographical areas of the world where people live measurably longer, happier and healthier lives than the rest of us. Despite being separated by oceans, there are recognisable traits that tie these diverse cultures together. The formula for a long and fulfilling life is woven effortlessly into their daily lifestyle. Employ some of their lessons in your own life to cultivate a lifestyle of longevity of your very own.
Stress causes inflammation, which we know is at the route of most chronic disease. Even Blue Zone residents experience stress, but they also have practices in place to manage it. The Ikarians of Greece enjoy a healthy sex life and take a daily nap. In Sardinia, relaxation comes with a vino at sunset, while the Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda, California make time for daily prayer and set Saturdays aside for a full day of rest.
Eat in moderation
Overeating is not common practice for any of the longest-lived people. The Ikarians fast regularly according to their religious calendar, while in Nicoya, Costa Rica and Loma Linda they eat a light dinner early in the evening.
The longest lived people exercise everyday but, not in the way we think of exercise; they live in environments that encourage them into activity. The Ikarians and Okinawans of Japan build activity into their daily lives by spending time tending to their gardens, while the residents of Loma Linda take long daily walks.
Time spent with family and friends is a priority for all of the Blue Zone populations. Nicoyan centenarians live with their families, in Sardinia the elders are celebrated and grandparents play a pivotal role in raising their grandchildren. The elder Okinawans remain smug and likable, spending time in the company of the younger generations to preserve their own youthful attitude.
Know thy purpose
Blue Zone residents know their life purpose and can readily articulate it. In Nicoya a 'plan de vida' (or sense of purpose), is essential part of feeling needed by their community. The elders of Okinawa know their 'ikigai' or reason for being, which imbues their life with a strong sense of meaning.
Build a network
Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda spend their time within their community; belonging to a network of likeminded people that share the same beliefs enriches their wellbeing. The Okinawans work to maintain their 'moai', a safety net of support and security in times of hardship. In Sardinia, the men gather in the street of an afternoon to socialise and share a laugh.
Eat more plants
In Nicoya, the traditional diet of maise and beans is packed with fibre, an essential longevity ingredient. The Sardinian diet is made up of whole-grains, fruit, vegetables, grass-fed pecorino sheep cheese and goats milk. The Okinawans diet is mostly vegetables and plant-based protein from tofu, while on the Seventh Day Adventist vegetarian diet, nuts and legumes provide protein and fibre.
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