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  • Writer's picture Sarah Ghalayini

Where Are the Current Blue Zones in the World – and What Factors Contribute to Their Longer Lifespans?

In pursuit of understanding the globe's longevity secrets, scientific researchers turn their gazes to the timeless allure of Blue Zones, where unique lifestyle choices reign as emblems of enduring vitality. Renowned for their centenarian dwellers and lower rates of chronic diseases, these top 5 researched Blue Zones are great examples of how to holistically nurture yourself to reverse your body's clock and follow in the footsteps of ancient civilisations.



1) Okinawa, Japan


Historically known as the land of immortals, Okinawa Island has built a global reputation for its centenarian inhabitants. Having fascinated the realm of science for decades, researchers have composed a guide on how to live an Okinawan-esque lifestyle to enhance your life's longevity.


The first lifestyle change includes healthier eating habits. Okinawans are known to live off of healthy legumes, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, seaweed, and small portions of fish. The practice of eating to fill 80% of their appetite is paired with daily, low intensity exercise and movement. Due to the traditionally minimal furniture style of Japan, Okinawans spend much less time than Westerners sitting down on sofas and reclining on plush beds. Instead, the elderly have an impressive lower body strength due to floor eating practices.


Alongside their Radio Tail exercise routines, Okinawans have dedicated their efforts to prioritising their emotional well being. As recorded by Nippon, a total of 80% of Okinawans stated that they were very or somewhat happy in life. This, as researchers point to, has many contributors. Three such contributors include their participation in  supportive social communities called Moai, their adoption of Ikigai philosophy, and their prioritisation of de-stressing activities within their daily lives such as gardening. For every 100,000 inhabitants, Okinawa has an impressive 68 centenarians, more than triple the statistics found in US populations, as recorded by the BBC.



2) Icaria, Greece


National Geographic's estimation of 30% of Ikarians living into their 90s without chronic illnesses foregrounds the record-breaking centenarian attribute of Ikarian life. Located southeast of Greece, this Mediterranean island holds the secret to celebrating your hundredth birthday.


Similar to Okinawans, Ikarians focus their diet on consuming medicinal herbs, olive oil, and wild greens whilst limiting high sugar, carbohydrate, and meat intakes. Neighbourhoods are closely knit in Ikaria, housing communities bustling with strong social connections. Known for its steep terrain, Ikarian living makes exercise a part of daily life, with locals often having to hike hills when walking to neighbour's houses and local amenities. A new addition to the centenarian criteria, Ikarians are also recorded to have daily naps to regulate emotional and physical stress.



3) Sardinia, Italy


Famous for its 7000+ prehistoric archeological sites dating before 1000 BC, Sardinia has long since been a highly coveted holiday destination. As of recent research reported by the Guardian, Sardinia has a recorded 33.6 centenarians for every 100,000 inhabitants.


The Blue Zones official website has categorised the Sardinian diet as containing 47% whole grains, 26% dairy, and 12% of vegetables. With only 3% of sugar in their diet, Sardinians have one of the lowest recorded sugar consumption when compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which holds 22%. Contributing to their low crime rate, Sardinian locals are highly social and engage in a daily ritual of afternoon banter to end the day on a lighthearted note. Their strong family values also contribute to a depleted record of depression, suicide, and stress. Just like every centenarian lifestyle,  Sardinians are known for their active routines. With 60% of Sardinia’s land being used for agriculture, many Sardinians labour daily in their farming responsibilities, with an added exercise of daily walks in nature.



4) Nicoya, Costa Rica


Located in the mountainous beach community of Costa Rica, Nicoya is coined as the third Blue Zone of the world with an average, and oftentimes surpassed, life span of 85.


Similar to the previous Blue Zones, diet plays a significant role in the longevity of Nicoyans’ lives. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods like squash, corn, bananas, and beans, Nicoyans are known to nourish their bodies with self-harvested produce. However, researchers have recently concluded that some element of this biological phenomenon may be down to geographic luck. Calcium-rich water, which is often associated with reduced risks of heart disease and stronger bones, is the main local drinking source for Nicoyans.


As reported by ABC news, consuming 5 litres of Nicoyan water per day fulfils the daily recommended calcium intake for the average human. Like other Blue Zone lifestyles, a life in Nicoya demands daily rigorous cardio. In a traditional town where walking is the preferred method of transport and domestic labour like wood chopping and food harvesting is undertaken by senior citizens, it’s no wonder the population is in such good shape. Last but not least, Nicoya does not fall short in its prioritisation of emotional health. Just like Sardinia and Ikaria, residents in Nicoya would never work overtime and holidays to fulfil their job responsibilities, as is so common in the western hemisphere. Instead, after hours calls for a strict regimen of social unwinding, whether it’s with the family, the neighbours, or meeting friends at local restaurants and pubs.



5) Loma Linda, California


Located in Loma Linda, California, this centenarian community has its roots tied to the Adventist Church dating back to the 1840s. Living a decade longer than the average American, as reported by the Blue Zone website, the Loma Linda population’s lifestyle puts the standard American lifestyle into severe questioning.


Centenarian studies has firmly concluded food is central to our holistic health. As such, Adventists take pride in their unique diet. With their biblically inspired meals often consisting of nuts, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, Adventists protect their bodies against obesity, heart disease, and cancer risks. Meats are often eaten in small portions, with meals also following an anti-indulgent practice, promoting a lower BMI and cholesterol level. Also reported by the Blue Zone website, Adventists whose diet consisted of eating legumes three times a week experienced a 30-40% reduction in colon cancer.


Outside of their clean eating habits, Adventist's ritual of the 24-hour Sabbath instills values which nurture emotional health, including spending time with family, self-regulating through prayers, and appreciating nature. With a population of 9000, Seventh-Day Loma Linda Adventists have lived in harmonious social circles, enabling them to create meaningful bonds where their values are shared. Replicating Okinawan Ikigai, Adventists often dedicate their life purpose to biblical values that in turn soothe their stress and provide them with a sense of meaningfulness, such as their charity obligations. In their active lives, low intensity exercise pervades nearly all daily activities, including daily walking habits and agricultural labour. In summary, Adventists often lead a life that is family and society oriented, with a strong emphasis on daily cardio exercise, resulting in maximised overall health.

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