Healthy Living: The world's 'Blue Zones' may reveal secret to longer life

Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to hit the gym every week to stay in shape...

Or what if meeting with your friends in the afternoon to share some laughs and a drink could add years to your life?

If you're still not sold.  How about the notion that attending a faith-based service four times a month could tack on another 4-14 years life expectancy.

Well... that's the idea behind the world's 'Blue Zones', places in the world author Dan Buettner says people are happier, and some would say healthier.

The idea caught the attention of local nutritionist Deborah Enos, who recently stopped by the Q13 studio to share the ideas behind 'Blue Zones' with Marni Hughes.

Enos says people in the 'Blue Zones' don't just live longer, they live better.

Below are Deborah's thoughts on the 9 key points of living longer and better in these areas.

1. Move Naturally

The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.

2. Purpose

The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.

3. 80% Rule

“Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the blue zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day

4. Belong

All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

BONUS TIP: My additional tip is SLEEP! I have to say that rest is certainly implied in this research but it didn’t specifically call it out. I can say first hand, if I’m not sleeping well then I’m not well. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors.

87% of their life is indoors, then another 6% of their life in automobiles.

That’s only 7% of your entire life outdoors under natural sunlight,or only one half of one day per week!

· Not only are we spending our time inside away from natural sunlight, even worse, but most of it is spent in front of artificial blue light (computers, tablets, cell phones, tv’s, etc).

· Just like plants, which shrivel up and die when separated from the sun, overtime our bodies respond in a similar way. Bottom line, humans need light for survival.

Here’s what I’m experimenting with, a new product, red light therapy call JOOVV.

Red light actually promotes the production and release of more natural melatonin that helps you not only get to sleep, but stay asleep as well.

5. Down Shift

Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.

6. Plant Slant

Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.

7. Wine @ 5

People in all blue zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

8. Loved Ones First

Successful centenarians in the blue zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.). They commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes).

9. Right Tribe

The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

To make it to age 100, you have to have won the genetic lottery. But most of us have the capacity to make it well into our early 90’s and largely without chronic disease. As the Adventists demonstrate, the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by adopting a Blue Zones lifestyle

Other key points:

• Family – put ahead of other concerns

• Less smoking

• Semi-vegetarianism – the majority of food consumed is derived from plants

• Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life

• Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities

• Legumes – commonly consumed


1. Moderate, regular physical activity.

2. Life purpose.

3. Stress reduction.

4. Moderate caloric intake.

5. Plant-based diet.

6. Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.

7. Engagement in spirituality or religion.

8. Engagement in family life.

9. Engagement in social life.