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By Gina Cousineau
There are five regions in the world with the highest concentration of male centenarians—men who are at least 100 years old.
These regions where people live the longest, and are healthiest—referred to as “Blue Zones”—are in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.
Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain’s demographic work published in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology laid the groundwork for the Blue Zone concept, which was ultimately discovered and founded by Dan Buettner while working in partnership with National Geographic.
There are nine lifestyle habits, termed the “Blue Zone Power 9,” that I subscribe to:
- Move Naturally—It is said that the “world’s longest-lived” people don’t go to gyms, or take group exercise classes online. They live lives that encourage movement naturally, such as working in their gardens, riding bikes, and not using labor-saving devices, aka electric bikes and lawnmowers.
- Purpose—Individuals must have a reason to get up in the morning. It is said that a sense of purpose can provide up to seven extra years of life.
- Downshift—It is imperative to put stress relievers into place in one’s life. However one can reduce stress—napping, prayer, meditation—is critical to living a long, healthy life. Everyone has stressors in life; the key is having routines to help “shed” that stress.
- Eighty Percent Rule—In my nutrition world, I have heard the 80/20 rule posed regardless of the diet approach. It is my point of view that we should, most of the time, choose more wholesome foods and exercise most days, choosing to be moderate in all areas of life, including with things that can be harmful, like highly processed foods and excess fat, sugar, and alcohol consumption. All or none rarely leads to a good outcome.
- Plant Slant—I love this verbiage, and similarly use the concept of consuming mostly plants, as close to nature as possible, understanding that some foods must be processed to allow us to consume them, such as milking cows, fermenting yogurt and cheese, cooking beans, and baking bread. The cornerstones of most blue zone areas are consuming beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, and eating less meat.
- Wine at 5—I don’t know many people that would be disappointed in this suggestion. Individuals in most blue zone regions consume 1-2 glasses of wine daily with friends and/or with food.
- Belong—A sense of belonging is paramount to the success of most centenarians, with the majority having a faith-based community, regardless of denomination. According to the research, attending faith-based services four times a month can add four to 14 years to your life.
- Loved Ones First—Family-first is a mantra that I live by, as do individuals in the blue zones. Having generations of families living in the same home, or nearby, lowers disease and mortality rates of everyone in the home, even the children.
- Right Tribe—According to the Framingham Studies, smoking, obesity, happiness and even loneliness are contagious, so having social groups that support healthy behaviors will positively impact your lifespan.
My “food as medicine” approach with my own lifestyle, as well as my clients’, revolves around a similar methodology. I teach the concept of “conviviality” and bringing the family back around the kitchen table to wholesome, delicious food, and conversation.
My hope for readers is to consider the Power 9 and begin to incorporate them into your life. Check out bluezones.com for their “longevity test” and see what you can do to live that long and healthy lifestyle of which you have been dreaming.
Gina Cousineau sees clients virtually and in person out of her San Clemente office. Her extensive education—a BS in dietetics and MS in integrative and functional nutrition—chef training, and 30-plus years as a fitness professional allow her to help clients lose weight and improve their health. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 949.842.9975, and on Instagram and Facebook @mamagslifestyle. Register for her complimentary weekly newsletter at mamagslifestyle.com.