How To Live A Better, Longer, Simple Life

By: Jamie Bussin and Dr. Emily Lipinski ND

Longevity is on everyone’s mind. There are technological breakthroughs every day that will certainly lead to longer lives…for those who can afford it. But there are a number of communities around the world where there are a disproportionate number of people living to 100 by making simple lifestyle decisions – known as the “Blue Zones”. I discussed this on episode #76 with Dr. Emily Lipinski ND. This article is inspired by those conversations.

The five Blue Zones, identified by researcher Dan Beuttner, are strewn across the world  – Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece and Loma Linda, California. Here are some of the key takeaways:

Food: The primary food group that the Blue Zone Communities were eating were vegetables. Eating a plant-based diet is key. Not all were vegetarians. While the 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda are – the others ate meat and dairy products, but in smaller amounts than the typical North American diet. Red meat specifically is only consumed once or twice a week and includes more than just the muscle but also other parts such as collagen in a “snout to tail” approach -increasing exposure to a wider variety of beneficial amino acids. All tend to eat locally and consume wild plants. They incorporate more herbs and spices into their food that they’ve grown in their garden, purchased in local markets or had foraging for. Also, all incorporate beans in their diet.

Community: Those who live in the Blue Zones have a very strong sense of community. The 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda have the church and their faith that keeps them together. The other communities engage in planned social activities or gatherings in the evenings or weekends. Loneliness isn’t as much of a factor as is typical in modern North American communities. 

Exercise: Blue Zone inhabitants exercise regularly but not intensely. The exercise is gentle to moderate, but occurs throughout their day and throughout their life. Such activities include walking, working in the garden, physical activity around the house, and maintaining their properties. (Note: intense exercise in the gym married to an otherwise sedentary lifestyle does not impact longevity, but rather causes stress on the body). This might seem difficult to achieve if you work at a desk. But you can bio-hack the situation by working at a standing desk, taking frequent breaks to get up and move or even bringing small weights into the office. 

Purpose and Stress Release: The Japanese have a phrase “ikigai” loosely translated to mean ‘a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment which comes to those who follow their passion’. While each of the Blue Zones don’t necessarily have their own word for it, all of the inhabitants have a reason to get up in the morning. In North America we tend to work until we retire and then there might not be a sense of purpose. Okinawans work well into their 70’s. When the Blue Zone inhabitants don’t work they still have a plan for their day, every single day. The Sardinians remain sexually active well into the late years of their life. All of the Blue Zoners tend to spend more time outdoors than the average North American. 

Outside the realm of the Blue Zones, it is thought that exposure to cold might benefit longevity. Keeping your body warm, or staying warm inside for a long period of time isn’t beneficial to cellular health. You can reduce cellular aging by exposing your body to cold. Certain Nordic practices such as ice baths have reported health benefits. Recent research suggests that it also helps anti-aging. You can achieve this effect by alternating between hot and cold showers (ending with cold) – which increases lymphatic circulation, dumps nitrous oxide and is beneficial as to how your cells operate within your body. Exposing your body to cold over time might also kill fat cells.