Throughout the world there are communities where the life spans far exceed that of the average person. These geographical locations have been branded as Blue Zones. Despite their geographical differences each population shares common traits believed to promote longer and better years of life.
The concept of Blue Zones emerged in 2004, when explorer Dan Buettner established a team of anthropologists, demographers, epidemiologists and other researchers to journey across the world to study populations with the highest percentages of people living to or beyond 100 years of age. There are five regions around the world that have earned the title of being a Blue Zones: Sardnia, Italy; The islands of Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and Ikaria, Greece. To be considered a Blue Zone, the community not only causes higher rates of centenarians, but the communities are mostly free from heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes (Barclay, 2015).
While each community is unique to its own culture and environment, all five populations share nine common characteristics Blue Zone Researchers have termed the Power 9®. The people from these diverse geographic regions all move more naturally, they have an identified sense of purpose, they manage stress, they stop eating when they are 80% full, they consume mostly plant based food, with the cornerstone being legumes, they drink wine moderately, they have a sense of belonging through faith based practices, they put their loved one’s first, and they have social interactions with those who support healthy behaviors (BlueZones.com, n.d.).
Why are Blue Zones important to Choose Health®?
The Blue Zone research supports the idea of health and wellness as a community effort. The concept of individualism and self discipline is flawed. Self discipline is a regime with a 90 percent rate of failure. The ability to live a longer life filled with wellness is attainable when one lives in a culture that naturally makes the right choices without anyone noticing (Midgley, 2015). An environment that encourages and eases accessibility to healthful living is essential. In the words of pediatrician and public health expert, Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, “The quality of time that we spend on this earth is married to our ability to connect in a loving way with the people that make up our community” (Designing Healthy Communities, 2012). Choose Health® strives to increase the prominence of Blue Zones and help residents improve their overall quality of life.
Barclay, Eliza. (April, 11, 2015). Easting to Break 100: Longevity diet tips from the Blue Zones. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/04/11/398325030/eating-to-break-100-longevity-diet-tips-from-the-blue-zones
Baroff, B. (Director). (2012). Designing Healthy Communities [Motion picture on DVD]. Media Policy Center
Bluezones.com. (n.d.). Power 9®: Blue Zones Lessons. Blue Zones® Live Longer, Better®. Retrieved from http://www.bluezones.com/live-longer/
Midgley, Carol. (September 24, 2015). The man who knows what to eat to live longer- and it involves beans. Life Newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.independent.ie/life/the-man-who-knows-what-to-eat-to-live-longer-and-it-involves-beans-31550139.html