My former head teacher in English was asked: What is your greatest fear in life?
Her answer: “Getting old. I fear getting old.”
She was 55 then. She retired at age 63 in 2014. Once in a while, she comes to school to pay us a visit.
“Don’t go out so often. COVID-19 might catch up with you. We still have more than 2,000 infections in our country lately,” I said.
“Yes, but I have to go out sometimes for some necessities,” she said.
She had only one child who migrated with his family abroad. Her husband is quite sickly.
“Go for 100, ma’am,” I said.
“Sana,” she said. “I hope I can overcome these minor diseases.”
And she went on to enumerate some: a painful back in the pelvic joint, insomnia, dizziness, forgetting things and weakness.
My research says that when people reach 50, they generally become weak, incur a lot of diseases and disoriented, mainly due to the degeneration of body parts.
But there are places called “blue zones” on earth, fellas.
Here, if you don’t make it to 100, it’s almost unusual.
These places have been studied by scientists for decades and have been given a name: blue zones.
As it turns out, blue zones exist only in a few places on earth:
The islands of Okinawa, Japan.
Loma Linda, California.
Nicoya, Costa Rica.
But there’s one reason why these people have been studied so much by scientists.
Beyond just living to 100 in much higher rates than virtually anywhere else in the world, these people suffer only a fraction of the health issues that most westerners suffer from in their 30s, 40s, 50s and later.
Dementia, heart issues and depression are almost non-existent among these people. What this means it that these people live a fantastic quality of life their entire,
Anyway, what’s wrong with the people in the West, fellas?
In the United States, 50% of the people that die every year die from heart disease and cancer – both of which are somewhat preventable.
What’s amazing is that in these blue zone communities (in particular, Ikaria, Greece) cancer rates are a fraction of what they are in the west, heart disease rates are almost half of what they are and dementia doesn’t even exist.
What that means is that not only do these people rarely get many of the diseases you and I would get; they enjoy optimal health throughout their entire lives – almost until the day they die.
By living a certain lifestyle, not only do you improve your health now, this ensures you avoid the major killers later in your life.
So rather than just saying “okay, but what if I don’t want to live to 100?” these suggestions will help you live an optimally healthy and happy life now.
Family is stressed as the most important thing in the lives of these people. It’s a priority to regularly see them, visit them, and interact with people part of their own tribe. Virtually everything in these cultures revolves around social interaction.
2. No smoking
3. Plant-based diet. The major part of each meal was plants. This does not mean they didn’t eat meat or carbohydrates. It means that the foundation of each meal is plants, followed by a smaller portion of meat or refined carbohydrates.
4. Constant low level of exercise. When we usually think of physical activity these days, we usually think of going to the gym and hitting it hard. In reality, the people that regularly live to be the oldest aren’t going through extreme workouts – they’re just getting regular physical activity like gardening, hiking, or other labor required for farming. And they’re getting this activity every day. Regular low or moderate level exercise every day is
5. Social engagement. We see “social ties/family” as 2/5 key characteristics of people who live to 100. Family and social ties make up an entire 30% of this “secret.” Having a social life is great, but what was it about the specific characteristics of each culture that was enabling them to live to an old age?
6. The Ikarian Secret. The Ikarians in Greece have 10 times the amount of people that reach 100, compared to the United States. Here are some of the really interesting things, tangible or otherwise,
They put their family first and have really close family ties – stronger social ties have been linked to lower rates of depression and stress (Source).
They walk an average of 5 miles a day on uneven terrain (as shepherds).
They drink red wine – where studies usually show back and forth research on alcohol, red wine is packed with antioxidants – what’s interesting is that the Ikarian (like the Sardinian) variety of red wine has three times the normal levels of most red wine.
Ikarians also have a more relaxed outlook on life and laugh whenever possible.
7. The Okinawan Secret. The Okinawans in Japan have a fascinating concept they partly attribute to their long lives, called ikigai– which is a reason for waking up in the morning. It’s almost like a purpose you give to life (or to the day).
They partly develop this ikigai by having incredibly strong social ties – friends and family that help provide emotional, physical and even financial support.
Many of the local Okinawans have their own gardens that they play in daily (and obviously get food from, too).
The Okinawans also follow a mostly plant diet, but what’s interesting is that they also have a personal rule where they only eat until 80% full, called hari hachi bu.
Some Okinawans in their 90s still even have an active sex life!
8. Nicoya, Costa Rican Secret. The Costa Ricans have a very similar rule as the Okinawans – they have something called a plan de vida – a reason to live (source).
The plan de vida is essentially a purpose or meaning they give to life, which frequently revolves around their social circle or their family. Family is again a huge component of the Nicoya people’s lives.
The Nicoyans also believe in hard work, they rise with the sun, sleep at least 8 hours a night, and eat their biggest meal in the morning – and their smallest meal at night. ●