The Blue Zones gives you advice on how to live to be 100 years and older by looking at five spots across the planet, where people live the longest, and drawing lessons about what they eat, drink, how they exercise and which habits most shape their lives.
How badly do you want to live forever? Seriously. I’m pretty sure 99.9% of all humans share this one thing: they don’t want to die.
The world is already working hard at pills that slow down the aging process, but nobody knows if they’ll live to see the day where average life expectancy crosses into the triple-digits. What we do know is that people already live to be over 100 years old and we sure can learn from them.
Dan Buettner has identified 5 so-called Blue Zones – areas where people live exceptionally long lives – and details what they do to become centenarians (a person who lives to be 100). While some are obvious, like not smoking or exercising regularly, others are far more subtle.
Here are 3 lessons from the book to help you up your life expectancy:
- The right lifestyle can add a decade to your life.
- Drink more, eat less.
- Put your family first.
Prepared to get some extra time on this precious planet? Let’s increase your life expectancy!
Lesson 1: Age is not about genes, it’s about lifestyle – and the right one can add 10 years to your life.
Let me give you the bad news first. Right now, only 1 in 4,000 Americans lives to be 100 years old. That’s 0.025%. The good news is that centenarians are the fastest-growing demographic across the planet, especially in Western areas, like the USA or Europe.
So while living extremely long lives is far from common practice, we’re getting there. One of the first blue zones that was discovered is Sardinia, a small island off the coast of Italy. On average, 1 in 600 humans lives to be 100 or older there.
But is it just their genes? No. According to a Danish study, which looked at over 2,500 twins, genes only account for 25% of how old you become.
What really matters is your behavior. That’s because no matter how great your genes are, you age every single day. Living a long life is predicated on slowing down that aging process, instead of accelerating it – and that’s why your lifestyle has the most significant effect.
The Sardinians, for example, live a very natural life. They’re outside a lot, move and get around naturally (with their feet), and eat a very natural, Mediterranean diet. If you adjust your own lifestyle to be more natural and in line with how people in the blue zones live, you can easily add an extra 10 years to your life.
Worth changing a few habits, don’t you think?
Lesson 2: Drink more, eat less.
“You are what you eat.” You’ve heard that one, right? Of course what you eat and drink makes up a huge part of your health and therefore, your age, so let’s look at what centenarians do.
First, you should drink more. No, not beer and not vodka. Water. At least 5 to 6 glasses each day. That’s what the inhabitants of Loma Linda just outside Los Angeles do (the only American blue zone). Pair it with a bit of red wine each day (as consumed by almost all Sardinians daily) and you’re set.
Forget sodas, heavy alcohol or other, sugar-laden liquids. What you shouldn’t forget about is food.
Centenarians usually eat a low-calorie diet, which is mostly vegetarian, and in some cases, even vegan. Breakfast or lunch should be your main meal of the day, so you can keep dinner light and not fall asleep on a full stomach. A good rule the people of Okinawa (another blue zone in Japan) adopt is to eat only until you’re 80% full.
Lesson 3: Always put your family first, and let it be your life’s purpose.
Living long isn’t just about health, it’s also about your psyche. One of the best things you can do to make sure you stay around is to live a life of purpose. Guess when most healthy Americans die.
In their first year of retirement. Far more people die then than in their last year of work, simply, because they lose their life’s purpose once they stop working.
Centenarians never stop working. The trajectory of their life is as long as their life lasts. This doesn’t mean they slave away at a job until they drop dead, but rather continue building a meaningful life and not just stop at 60, 65 or 70. Most of them choose their families as the center of their lives, and choose to live with them, provide for them and spend lots of time with them.
95 out of 100 centenarians only live to be that old, because they have children or grandchildren who care for them and receive love and sometimes financial aid in return.
Focusing on building a happy and healthy family for the rest of your life also keeps you out of trouble, because you’re too busy to fight and stress about petty conflicts with your neighbors.
My personal take-aways
My roommate has this book and I’ve read several sections of it. It’s just fantastic. Not that anyone had to sell me on moving to Italy before (I’m a huge fan of pizza and all Italian food as is), but now I’m more game than ever.
The cool thing about this book is that the blue zones all lie in the most vastly different countries, which means there are a few lifestyle changes in there for everyone. No matter whether you like Asian food, Italian red wine or Californian sunshine, there are bound to be things in this book that you’ll want to adopt.
Highly recommended read – what better book to pass the time until science catches up on those anti-aging pills could there be?