The prescription for a longer, happier life with robust good health
Posted Oct 26 2011 12:18am
Some parts of the world have been identified as ‘blue zones’ where people live longer, healthier and happier lives. Scientists have visited each area in a large scale study to establish what was so different about the people in these areas. When collated, the results have provided an evidence-based bank of data about action you can take to ensure you enjoy life right up to the day you die.
The research concluded that there are four major areas to focus on to enjoy life: the food you eat, your lifestyle, your perspective on life, and who you spend time with.
The diet of people in blue zones is wholesome, not surprisingly. It contains a lot of plant foods, including legumes; a little high quality protein from animal sources; The largest meal of the day is breakfast; the smallest is the evening meal. Red wine, about one glass a day, is a surprising inclusion. Portion sizes are smaller than in areas where people age faster.
Movement is natural: People in the blue zones don’t have to create special time for exercise, its part of their daily life. In a blue zone, you’re more likely to walk to your destination than drive, and to expend physical effort in obtaining and preparing your food.
Your outlook on life affects you, and also affects the people around you. It turns out that happiness is contagious – but so is unhappiness and negativity. If the people you spend time with are overweight, smokers, heavy drinkers and have generally unhealthy lifestyles, you’re more likely to be that way as well. You can get healthier just by being with people who are healthy, because you will tend to follow their lead. Good health by osmosis!
A sense of purpose in life, and spending your time fulfilling that purpose, is another important finding in successful ageing. This, plus a strong sense of spiritual connection (whatever your chosen form) provides a real sense of meaning in life for people in blue zones.
Being connected helps: This means relationships with other people who care about you. For some people this means a happy intimate relationship; or a loving relationship with their children; or being part of a small, tightly knit group of friends. This is an interesting aspect to longevity: The people around you can make your life so much more enjoyable, but they will also influence your health behaviours.
If you’d like to investigate just how healthy your current diet and lifestyle is, compared to people who live in Blue Zones, there’s a fun quiz online you can take. It’s called the Vitality Compass, at www.bluezones.com . The calculator will estimate your current biological age, what age you are likely to live to, and what age you are likely to live to in robust good health. Then it suggests changes you could make to slow faster. A bit of fun with a very serious purpose!
P.S. If you're feeling brave, let us know your results. I got a biological age of 41 (I'm 48 at the time of writing this). I'm likely to live to 91 according to the calculator, which just isn't long enough!