You may not be able to hop on a plane to Greece or Costa Rica right now to get that "Blue Zone feeling" but you can start to live like you are there, every day!
Whenever giving DNA feedback or when in a functional medicine health coaching session, I find that we end up talking about "The Blue Zones" as an optimal way of living.
Worldwide, the average life expectancy is 71 years. However, some people are living to 100 years in good health. What are they doing differently? Let's take a closer look.
What are the Blue Zones?
The Blue Zone Project was an initiative by a group of academics that believed that none of us should die in a hospital from complications attributed to lifestyle-related, chronic disease.
The Blue Zone Project provides the tools to transform environments to drive physical, mental, social, and professional well-being for all of us.
Rooted in years of international anthropological research and data-driven results, their world-renowned experts and solutions transform cities and implement sustainable change. Living like you are in a Blue Zone means that you could benefit from better health, significant medical cost savings, productivity improvements, and increased economic vitality.
What are the features of the Blue Zones
The Blue Zone project teamed up with National Geographic to find the world’s longest-lived people and study them. We know most of the answers lie within their lifestyle and environment (The Danish Twin Study established that only about 20% of how long the average person lives is determined by genes).
These five places that met these criteria:
- Barbagia region of Sardinia – Mountainous highlands of inner Sardinia with the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians.
- Ikaria, Greece – Aegean Island with one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia.
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica – World’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality, the second-highest concentration of male centenarians.
- Seventh Day Adventists – Highest concentration is around Loma Linda, California. They live 10 years longer than their North American counterparts.
- Okinawa, Japan – Females over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.
The thing that amazes me the most about the Blue Zones is that all the people living and thriving there has a sense of purpose, belonging and respect in their respective communities. For me this says so much about the elegant spirit of human beings - that we need to use our talents, feel safe and loved and have a passion for something! Epigenetic research has shown that when these aspects are missing from our lives, it negatively impacts our genetic expression and our overall well being
What do these places have in common?
The people living in the Blue Zone live in very different parts of the world. Yet they do share 9 commonalities that they share in order to enjoy a long healthspan. The diagram below illustrates these 9 shared features. There is no reason why you can't implement and integrate all of these into your daily choices.
The role of genetics?
Genetics provides you with key insights into your predispositions for lifestyle-related, chronic diseases and longevity BUT it's what you expose your genetics too that will really determine your "Blue Zone" score!
That said, it is important to determine whether you carry predispositions for key health areas such as inflammation, oxidative stress, fat storage, premature ageing, soft tissue injury, cognitive decline, insulin regulation, poor lipid metabolism, etc. Knowing this will help you to make better, more personalised choices.
I believe that having key insights into these genes will take the guesswork out of your choices and point you towards where you need to focus.
The sum of your choices
If we look at the Blue Zones from a Functional Medicine viewpoint, what is really interesting is that many of the people living there; have lived there their whole lives. This brings into focus the role of a health timeline. In other words, your health is a product of a lifetime of choices and events.
In Functional Medicine, we start plotting your health time from your parent's health, your conception, childhood to where you are now. We examine the "health triggers" that you experience throughout your life together with the things that perpetuated some of these events.
If we look at health this way, we can quickly see that health issues or optimal health does not happen in isolation but rather are a sum of our choices across our lifetime.
Take our version of the Blue Zone quiz to see where you are at
Take this quick quiz to check how close your daily health choices are to a bLUE zone or not!
If you would like to learn more, you may find this book a great read:
If you feel like you need some help in resetting your health choices, then you can book a Functional Medicine Health Coaching session with me.
I have always loved the colour blue, and now I know why!
CEO of MY DNA CHOICES
BA (Speech, Hearing & Lang Therapy) Hons | FMCHC | ReCODE Coach | HMX Genomics & Biochemistry (Candidate)