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Blue Zones, where the longest-living populations reside

Paola Spadaro Rodriguez

June 3, 2023
A Blue Zone (BZ) is a limited geographical area where its population has exceptionally high longevity, unrelated to high economic incomes or specialized healthcare. The designation is simply due to the fact that, when the study was initiated, researchers used a blue marker to mark the places where these populations had been located.

The island of Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, United States, Ikaria in Greece, and Nicoya in Costa Rica are the five identified Blue Zones in the world. These zones share a common lifestyle and environment characterized by exceptionally high longevity. For instance, Sardinia exhibits exceptional longevity among men, with longevity concentrated in the central-eastern part of the island and covering all mountainous areas in central Sardinia.

Some of the explanations for the extraordinary longevity of the inhabitants in these areas include prolonged consumption of mineralized water, which serves as a protective factor for longevity and quality of life. Other factors are related to the geography of the Blue Zones, as they are located in rather isolated regions such as islands and mountainous areas. These populations have managed to maintain a traditional lifestyle characterized by intense physical activity that extends beyond the age of 80, low levels of stress, strong family and community support for the elderly, and the consumption of locally produced food.

The conclusion reached by a comprehensive team of doctors, nutritionists, epidemiologists, demographers, and anthropologists after studying various Blue Zones is that there are two essential and common pillars in all Blue Zones: a healthy lifestyle with a plant-based diet and regular exercise, and a sense of community where there is a personal and collective ikigai that promotes integration.

Know their secret:

In more detail, these are the 9 longevity factors responsible for the longer average lifespan of the inhabitants in the Blue Zones compared to the rest of the population:

  • Engaging in regular physical activity and avoiding sedentary behavior.
  • Having an ikigai or reason for being. It is a Japanese concept that describes the intersection of what you love and what the world needs. It is equivalent to your life’s purpose.
  • Low or minimal stress, strongly associated with age-related diseases. Positive examples include prayer and meditation, community tea ceremonies, or Mediterranean siestas.
  • Hara hachi bu, a Confucian maxim that encourages eating until 80% full, rather than until completely satisfied.
  • A predominantly plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Meat, fish, and dairy take a backseat in terms of prominence.
  • Moderate or no alcohol consumption.
  • Participation in social groups that promote healthy habits.
  • Involvement in religious communities with communal practices.
  • Maintaining strong bonds among family members.

Whether you live in a blue zone or not, you already know the keys to strive for living 100 years: eating light and healthy, staying active, finding meaning and purpose in what you do, integrating with your community, avoiding stress, and eliminating alcohol or junk food from your daily life.

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