By Mark Underwood
If you’ve ever wondered what people who live to be 100 have in common, science may have some answers. When you read stories about groups of people living fit and healthy beyond a hundred years, you can’t help but wonder, what are they doing? Now, science is unlocking clues that may help us understand the mysteries behind longevity. New research is centered on areas called Blue Zones, geographical areas in the world where many residents consistently live to be 100 or more. Sardinia, Italy is one such area where many centenarians can be found. So is it just good luck that people to live to be 100? Here are some starting points to consider in your own journey to long life.
Is this Shangri-La? The chances of finding long living, healthy adults in the world’s Blue Zones are 20 times greater than in other places. They also have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and dementia. It turns out where people live the longest on earth, they share something in common. Their secret to a long life is no secret at all. Residents in Blue Zone communities have a consistent regimen of good eating, interests and activities, constant learning, daily exercise, and social interaction.
Here are a few simple steps you and your family can take to improve the chances of living a long life. The key ingredient for maximizing your success is consistency. That means everyday you need to be active and eat a healthy diet – not just on weekdays. The only element you can’t change is your genetics. Since we can’t ask for a do-over in this category, let’s move on to things we can control and help improve our chances of living to 100.
Follow these steps toward creating a Blue Zone in your house:
Work it – often!
All centenarians in the Blue Zones of the world are active participants in the world around them. The phrase “use it or lose it” can be life changing and life saving, particularly when it comes to exercise. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy such as running, biking, or swimming and you’ll be much more likely to incorporate it into a regular activity.
Maintain social networks
Avoid being isolated. Keep a circle of close, good friends. The Australia Longitudinal Study on Aging, a study that has followed nearly 1,500 people over 70 years old for 10 years, says friends may be more important than you think. The study found that social networks like strong friendships can prolong your life. If you have good friends who you share inner secrets with, and you chat with them often, this close-knit interaction impacts you in a healthy way.
Mom Was Right, Eat Your Veggies
Many communities identified within the Blue Zones have a mostly plant-based diet. They eat veggies every day, many times a day. In Japan, fish is the main meat consumed at home. Omega fatty acids are good for the brain and body, and fish and legumes have all the nutrients you need to put you on your path to become a centenarian. Eating the right foods can also help to combat the adverse affects of oxidation and damage of brain cells.
East Less, Eat Right
There is a concept in Okinawa that is the opposite of ‘supersizing’ the meal. They are known for a practice called Hara hachi bu (which translates roughly to “80 percent belly.”) Eat just a little bit less than whatever full is for you. You will get the nutrients you need while lowering your caloric intake. Moderation here may keep your metabolism in top shape.
Learn to relax
It’s also important to try to relax more often and allow the toxic effects of stress to dissipate. Blue Zone communities share an understanding of the importance for rest and relaxation. Centenarians have found effective ways to de-stress and keep their minds active. Start building a Blue Zone in your house today. If you live right, eat right, exercise, laugh often and continue the joys of learning, you’re on your way to reaping the rewards of a richly filled, long life.
Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Mark has been taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal Morning Radio, CBS, and CNN Radio among others. Mark is also a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and offers practical tips to help keep health brain function in aging. For more articles and tips for healthy aging, visit www.TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com.