From The Desk of Josh Gitalis

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There are various “zones” in the world where people live exceptionally long. They are called the the Blue Zones.

Dan Buettner, author of the book The Blue Zones: Lessons For Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, set out to discover what enables these people to live longer lives. He came up with nine commonalities among the people living in the blue zones. Here, we have the highest concentration of centenarians that have lived and are living today.

1. Move Naturally

We were never meant to sit at a desk all day long. Constant movement is what’s natural for us. Centenarians engage in regular low-intensity activities that are usually related to work such as farming, hiking, shepherding, and walking.

2. Hara Hachi Bu

One of the only dietary modifications that has shown to increase longevity is calorie restriction. Hara hachi bu is a term that that the Okinawan’s use to describe a state of being 80% full. They intuitively know that eating until you are full causes more wear and tear on all of your body systems, resulting in a shorter lifespan.

3. Plant Slant

We’ve heard it over and over again, “eat your vegetables”. Long-lived people eat many local vegetables, eat little meat, and avoid all processed foods.

This is not to say that all blue zones avoid meat completely. When meat is consumed, it is usually eaten as part of ceremony for short periods of time, or as a small part of the meal.

Most people focus their meals highly on the meal’s protein source. For example, we go to a restaurant and order the fish, chicken, lamb, or beef meal. Why can’t we choose a broccoli, kale, organic corn, or avocado meal?

4. Grapes of Life

Alcohol has been used for thousands of years by people all over the world. It is an important part of many ceremonies, and is used during social gatherings.

Studies show that consuming alcohol in moderation, especially varieties with high levels of polyphenols (i.e. red wine), can reduce the risk of heart disease.

On the other hand, alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, even in moderation. So caution must be used when drinking alcohol.

We cannot forget that alcohol is toxic to the liver and brain no matter the amount. Once an individual consumes more than one serving of alcohol, the benefits are no longer realized.

5. Purpose Now

Why do you wake up in the morning?

Long-lived people have something they look forward to everyday, whether it be a job, hobby, or seeing their children or grandchildren.

6. Down Shift

Have you ever stopped to smell the roses?

We need time to unwind and decompress from our days activities. We need to release stress that might be built up.

In our society, people who work hard and take few breaks with little vacation time are praised for being hard workers. Perhaps we need a complete “one-eighty” and start applauding people for being superb relaxers. One of my former employer’s mottos was “work hard, play hard.” I think they had the right idea.

7. Belong

Healthy centenarians have a strong sense of belonging. This is usually experienced as part of a religious group. Similar benefits can be realized by group meditation and reflection.

8. Loved Ones First

Building a family used to be an important part of survival and still is in certain parts of the world. When an individual has the support of other family members, they have an “insurance policy” for when they get old and possibly sick along the way.

In addition, family adds to the sense of belonging. Centenarians always have a strong family structure and connection.

9. Right Tribe

When my clients embark on a new health program, I recommend that they find like-minded people so that they can be encouraged and supported. This social support can greatly encourage the success of the program.