Boasting the highest concentration of male centerarians in the world, Sardinians eat a largely plant-based diet, are physically active every day, and have a close-knit family-centered community. Sheep herders, who walk at least five miles a day, lead the pack.Admittedly, one factor is the result of generations who’ve lived in this secluded area: they’re passing down the genetic marker M26, which is linked to extreme longevity.
Okinawans rely on their family and community even more than most, resulting in a culture with the longest-living women in the world. Their tight-knit social circle provides strong emotional and practical support that reduces stress and reinforces shared healthy behavior through all of life’s challenges.
Loma Linda, Calif., U.S.A.
Residents of the U.S.’s only Blue Zone live an average 10 years longer than the rest of the country. As members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the community follows a shared set of principles. Many are vegetarian, with a diet rich in plants, nuts and wholegrains. Observing the Sabbath — a day of rest and reflection — provides an opportunity for weekly spiritual and physical recharging.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Nicoyans thrive on a diet that emphasizes beans, corn, squash and tropical fruit. They also spend lots of time outdoors, helping their bodies stay strong. As for their mental health, Nicoyans’ belief in a “plan de vida” (guiding life purpose) provides a spiritual framework that helps them reach age 90 and beyond.
A third of these island dwellers live into their 90s with low percentages of chronic disease, including dementia. Their habits include a daily nap, late bedtime, and following the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, olive oil, and fresh seasonal fruit. A strong sense of local pride keeps Ikarians invested in their community.
One thing the Blue Zones have in common is that they’re either physically or intentionally isolated. Still, even if we can’t (or wouldn’t) choose to live that way, the key elements of a healthy, long life include being part of a close-knit community, getting plenty of fresh air and exercise, and eating a largely plant-based diet.
Worth trying, right?