Lessons from Longevity Hotspots

Mar 6, 2014 | 0 comments

Five places where centenarians flourish

The interior of Sardini
The mountainous highlands of Barbagia in Sardinia’s interior has the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians.

A remote peninsula in Costa Rica

The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica boasts some of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality.

The Greek Island of Ikaria

The residents of this Aegean Island has the lowest recorded rates of dementia in the world.

The Japanese archipelago of Okinawa

In this Japanese society, matriarchs over 70 are the longest lived population in the world.

The devout Adventist community of southern California

The southern Californian community of Loma Linda live on average 10 years longer than their North American counterparts.

These areas have been dubbed as “blue zones”, a concept that identifies a certain demographic and/or geographic area of the world where a noticeable percentage of the population lives well into their 100’s. South Africans needn’t feel excluded and can adopt the following lifestyle characteristics that seniors in blue zones all have in common.

9 Common denominators seniors in blue zones share:

Stay active:

Make regular activity a part of your daily routine. The world’s longest lived people don’t spend their time in the gym or running marathons. Instead they live in environments that promote them being active without thinking about it. They spend their time in the garden tending to their vegetables, or maintaining their home and prefer doing things by hand instead of taking advantage of mechanical conveniences.

Live with purpose:

The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” while the Nicoyans call it “Plan de Vida’ which simply means “why I wake up in the morning” or having a mission or purpose that gives meaning to your life. Research has shown that knowing your sense of purpose is worth seven extra years of life expectancy.


Stop and smell the flowers:

Slow down, work less, rest and take a holiday. An unavoidable result of living in the fast lane is stress, which leads to chronic inflammation. Stress-induced chronic inflammation is associated with every major age-related disease. One thing that centenarians in blue zones share is a lifestyle and routine that sheds stress. Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap every day, Okinawans remember their ancestors through rituals each morning and Sardinians never miss out on their happy hour.

Eat all your veggies:

One factor that is shared by all people staying in Blue Zones is that their diet is heavily focussed on fruits and vegetables. Many of them have a plant based diet which incorporates lean protein with few processed foods. Beans including soy, lentil, fava and black beans are a cornerstone of most senior diets with smaller portion sizes – averaging around 100 grams or the size of a deck of cards.


Enjoy a glass of vino:

Adventists aside, people in Blue Zones drink alcohol moderately and enjoy 1-2 glasses of wine a day with meals or in the company of friends. Red wine in particular, especially Sardinian Cannonau wine, has been proven to contain heart healthy antioxidants and riboflavin compounds that diminish the effects of free-radicals in the body.


Stay social:

Successful centenarians share a healthy social network and have social circles that support healthy behaviours. Okinawans in particular create “moais”, the term used for a group of five friends that are committed to each other for life.


Feed your soul:

Blue Zone centenarians also cultivate religious or spiritual beliefs and participation in some shape or form. Research has shown that participating in faith based services four times a month can boost life expectancy between 4 – 14 years.


Family first:

The world’s longest lived people make family a high priority; this means keeping parents and grandparents close by. They commit to a life partner and invest time and energy with their children.