Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point.

Live to 100: Secrets of The Blue Zones

This is a great documentary to kick off the new year.

In this compelling 90-minute Netflix movie, author and National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner shares fascinating information about the Blue Zones, five areas in the world where, per capita, there are the most residents who are living to 100 years-old or longer!

The Blue Zones are located in Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Loma Linda (California) and, topping the list with the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world,  Okinawa (Japan).

Host Dan Buettner, who has studied the Blue Zones for over 10 years with doctors, demographers and psychologists, tries to uncover the secrets to longevity in these parts of the world. 

It’s worth noting that presently, according to the CDC (the Centre for Disease Control) the average American is living until they are 78 years-old.

However, research shows that the human body has an excellent chance of making it to 90 years-old, if taken care of properly.

So how do we get back 12 years? How do we protect ourselves from chronic diseases, heart disease and diabetes?

It’s also worth noting another study outside of this documentary that was done in Denmark, involving 2500 Danish twins.  

The study revealed that genetics only determine about 20 percent of our longevity. Our lifestyle determines the other 80 percent!

So, what can the Blue Zones teach us?

First of all, if you’re hoping for one easy fix, there isn’t one.

Secrets of the Blue Zones proposes that the key to aging well is a combination of lifelong practices – a series of daily fixes if you will.  What’s hopeful about this documentary is that there are lots of takeaways that people living outside of the Blue Zones can use.

Buettner says it boils down to 9 pieces.  

Number One: Moving Naturally (without effort)

No gym memberships here. Blue Zone centenarians move without having to think about it.

They build natural movement into their daily routines.

It could be as simple as sitting. The women of Okinawa don’t sit on chairs – they sit on the floor! This means having to get up at least 30 or 40 times a day.

Many Okinawan centenarians also garden at least one hour a day.

In Sardinia, Italy many of the centenarians are or were shepherds.

This means that they easily clock at least 6 miles a day walking up and down hills with their flocks.

It doesn’t get easier when they go home. The town itself has many hills and stairs. Many narrow houses are built with multiple level staircases.

Number Two: Purpose

A recent study showed that more Americans die in their first year of retirement than in their last year of work.

People in the Blue Zones do not have any specific year for retirement. They always keep busy.

Perhaps the centenarians of Okinawa, Japan say it best when it comes to purpose. They have a word for purpose. It’s called Ikigai. Ikigai means’ a reason for being’ – a reason for getting out of bed every morning.

But Ikigai doesn’t have to be complicated.

One resident who is a karate master at 102 years- old says his Ikigai is to continue his martial arts practice.

Another Okinawa centenarian says his Ikigai is catching three fish a week so he can feed his family.

Number Three: Downshift

Blue Zone centenarians incorporate breaks into their daily routines to help them shake off stress. These breaks can include simple gestures like; getting outdoors, walking, or just laughing with friends. Whatever breaks the routine and feels good!

Number Four: Enjoy a glass of wine

In some of the Blue Zones (particularly Italy and Greece), a number of centenarians like to have a glass of red wine a day. Studies have shown that red wine has antioxidant compounds that can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. This can lead to lowering the risk of atherosclerosis as well as coronary heart disease and stroke.

Another report shows that moderate red wine drinking can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Number Five: Consume more plant-based foods

The top five elements of the Blue Zone diets were: whole grains, vegetables, greens, beans and tubers such as sweet potatoes.

Buettner notes that a cup of beans a day is associated with an extra four years of life expectancy.

Number Six: The 80% eating rule.

The Japanese have a phrase for this, as well – Hara Hachi Bu.  

Basically, it means eating until you are 80 percent full.

That way, you never feel stuffed, tired or lazy after eating a big meal.

Number Seven: Family/ Community

A sense of belonging is important in all of the Blue Zones.

Taking care of loved ones is part of their culture.

One interesting fact is that there are no retirement homes in any of the Blue Zones.

Blue Zone centenarians are mentally and physically fit enough to live in their own homes. 

Also, there are very few cases of dementia in the Blue Zones. The documentary isn’t conclusive as to specifically why this is but it perhaps it’s a combination of diet, lifestyle and community.

Families and communities in the Blue Zones take care of their elders. They don’t look at them as burdens. In fact, they look at them as fountains of knowledge that they can constantly learn from.

Number Eight: Friends

Research has shown over and over again that friendships help us to fight loneliness, give us a sense of purpose and lower our overall stress levels. There is no lack of friends and/or family in the Blue Zones. Again, centenarians are beloved in their communities.

Number Nine: Spirituality

Blue Zone residents tend to belong to a faith-based community. Buettner points out that individuals who regularly attend a faith-based service live 4 to 14 years longer than those who don’t. 

In Conclusion:

I highly recommend Live to 100: Secrets of The Blue Zones. We may not all live until we are 112 years old but we can certainly start doing small Blue Zone hacks on a daily basis to improve our lives going forward. Moving naturally, leaning into a healthier diet and socializing and caring for others and being aware of a sense of purpose can be done by almost anyone. It’s good for us and it’s good for the people that we care for.

By the way, the people in the Blue Zones all shared something else that isn’t highlighted specifically on the list but it is certainly part of centenarians’ lives. As a comedian, I can certainly identify with – the joy of laughter. The centenarians certainly like to laugh and share a joke.

Hey, if pull my finger in its small way can contribute to adding days, months or years to our lives, then we should certainly all be on board.

Until next time, laugh long and prosper.

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Feel free to take a listen!

If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

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