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    The ‘Blue Zones’ Revisited

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | July 8th, 2018

    The ‘Blue Zones’ Revisited

    At the conference I attended last week in Dallas, I talked about the ‘Blue Zones’ and it was well received. I thought this would be a good time to revisit the ‘Blue Zones’.

    I was introduced to the ‘Blue Zones’ in 2014 when I visited Costa Rica for a yoga retreat. ‘Blue Zones’ are areas in the world where there are a large concentration of people that live long healthy lives.  The areas include Ikaria (Greece), Loma Linda (California), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Okinawa (Japan) and Sardinia (Italy).

    To learn more about the ‘Blue Zones’, I read the book, The Blue Zones, Lessons for Living Longer from People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner. He and his team visited the five countries and interviewed many of the individuals living in these areas. Mr. Buettner was able to compile a list of what they had in common. The last chapter of his book describes ways that we can create our own blue zone following the lessons learned.

    Lesson One: Move Naturally – Find every opportunity to move. Inconvenience yourself – park furthest from the entrance way anywhere you go, use the stairs instead of the elevators, walk or bike when you have the opportunity, walk in place while watching television at least during commercials, do not use your remote control, iron more or plant a garden. Find ways to move.

    Lesson Two: Hara Hachi Bu – The Okinawan elders say “hara hachi bu” prior to every meal. It reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. In the conference someone asked me, “How would we know when we are 80 percent full?” Someone in the audience responded, “probably at the point where you are starting to enjoy the food”. Strategies to help would be to eat slowly, sit when you are eating and avoid getting seconds.

    Lesson Three: Plant Slant – I am reminded of Michael Pollan’s quote “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. You want to make sure you are eating real food – food that is not processed. Food that is close to its natural state. I am still trying to figure out what animal looks like a frank. A good website that I learned about where you can find farmer’s market nearby as well as wonderful recipes is www.celebrate

    Lesson Four: Grapes of Life – Drink red wine (in moderation). If you are going to drink, the CDC recommends no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.

    Lesson Five: Purpose Now – We should all ask ourselves – Why do I wake up in the morning?  There was an NIH study that revealed that people between the ages 65 – 92 year old who expressed a clear goal in life lived longer and sharper than those who did not. Consider learning something new.

    Lesson Six: Downshift – It is important to find ways to de-stress. Chronic stress is not good for our health.  It can increase inflammation in our bodies that can promote disease. We can reduce stress by taking a deep breath when things are not going our way. Meditation and getting enough sleep are also helpful in relieving stress.

    Lesson Seven: Belong – The simple act of worship improves your chance of having more good years regardless of your belief. A study of 3,617 people over a 7.5 year period found those who attended religious services at least once a month reduced their risk of death by one third.  It is important to participate in a spiritual community.

    Lesson Eight: Loved Ones First – Make family a priority. Loneliness is associated with a poor quality of life. Find the time to reach out to the people that you love.

    Lesson Nine: Right Tribe– Hang out with people who are willing to follow the lessons from the ‘Blue Zones’.


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