There are 7 blue zones across the globe, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, Ikaria in Greece; province of Ogliastra in Sardinia, Italy; the Seventh-Day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.
These people have a set of things in common- their lifestyle. This lifestyle is not a rigid list of things on a piece of paper which they tick off once achieved but rather an ingrained way of life learned from generations before, and in tune with feeling good and overall health. The blue zones lifestyle is also incredibly simple and centred around taking things slower with less focus on material things.
What are some of the principles they’ve adopted?
And like many Japanese, your food should be made up of mostly plants, beans/legumes, vegetables and fruit
Over 300 centenarians (people aged 100 and older) were interviewed by Blue Zones researchers; and one interviewee stood out in particular. He is 102-year old Sicilian man who shared his daily habits for a life well lived.
He eats pasta with olive oil and garlic every day, as well as one glass of red wine with lunch. Over and above pasta, his diet consists mostly of toasted fava beans, or broad beans, green beans, wild greens, bread and figs. And all of these foods are available locally and grown in the region. Interestingly, this man did not grow up eating meat or fish and does not include it in his diet. One thing he made sure to mention was his fait in God and that he attended church weekly.
With the advances of modern medicine, and people leading healthier and more active lives, the number of centenarians worldwide, has doubled.
Can you imagine running your first marathon at the age of 89? Well, one man named Fauja Singh did exactly that and today at 100 he is still running. He says the keys to a good life are laughter and happiness. Easier said than done but I am sure running helps a bit too.
There is a global record of the number of people living to 100, and most of the babies born today will certainly reach, if not exceed their 100th year. The number of people living to 100 in the UK has almost doubled every decade since the 50s! Projections says that by then end of the century there will be more than 18 million centenarians globally.
If people are living to 100, or just beyond, then why do they die? This is a question weighing on the mind of scientists; and it seems many centenarians die of ‘old age’ not chronic or dread diseases, and the medical world wants to know more. As a generation, worldwide there are 77 million people aged between 56 and 74. And now more than ever people have access to all the health-centred info they need to live their best lives. With people living longer, the retirement age of 65 just isn’t old anymore. In fact, every day in the US alone 10 000 people turn 65. Generally, this generation is better educated than their parents and are more health-conscious and active therefore they are living longer and better.
What’s really interesting is that many of these centenarians died in a care home or similar, and only a few died at home. Previous studies have shown that elderly prefer to spend their last days at what they call ‘home’. Home is not necessarily the four walls of your property but rather a place where you feel safe and secure with a sense of belonging. This is where care centres step in- they are valuable in bridging the gap between one’s family home and the much-needed care the elderly requires. If this is the case, then at least nationally, we need to ensure we provide assisted living and frail care facilities in a homely environment.
If the number of centenarians is growing then we need to understand more about people’s needs- where and how they want to live in their latter years and how they want to be treated so they can have a good quality of life and live well. The reality is that with this ever-growing generation, society overall needs to pay more attention to this group as they will become a prolific age group in years to come.
Aside from companionship, having a dog can actually be good for your health. One study demonstrates the link between owning a pet and improved well-being.
If you’re a pet owner, or rather dog owner you’ll know the feeling: it’s a chilly evening and you’re just about to head off to bed but there’s one last thing to do- take the dog outside to wee. You stand there, shivering slightly, rubbing hands together and hoping your little furry friend will hurry up so you can escape back into the warmth of the house. He’s done and now you make your walk back inside and breathe a sigh of relief when you close the door behind you. That little sojourn outside into the cool air was actually good for you, yes, good for you.
Firstly, you’ve had to get up and walk there, which not only is good for your heart and cardio fitness but also your bones. Weight-bearing exercise, like walking works to strengthen bones. Any exercise that forces you to work against gravity is good for your bones and your heart, so that means the stationary wait for your little pet to go pee-pee is beneficial. Slight shivering and rubbing hands is your body’s way of increasing heat through your muscles tightening and loosening very quickly and involuntarily, so bracing yourself for the cool night air is good for you too. Who would have thought that those few minutes outside could really do you good? In fact, it’s the many small efforts consistently over time which add up to better health overall; we call consistent efforts over time, habits. The habit of taking your dog out to do its business is doing you more good than you realise, so keep it up!
A study was conducted in the UK where researchers tracked how much senior citizens who owned dogs, and those who didn’t, walked every day. It’s easy to guess which group walked more than the other; yes, the dog owners. In fact, the dog owners walked on average 23 minutes more daily than their counterparts. And what’s even more inspiring is that this rate of exercise actually meets with the international exercise recommendations for good health. The research also revealed that dog owners tend not to dawdle when outside walking their pets; they tend to engage in a more meaningful stride at a moderate pace. The World Health Organisation recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly; that’s 21.5 minutes a day. Not much at all and very easy to achieve if you’re a dog owner.
What’s interesting is that the head researcher in the study believes that this shows that the benefits of this come from having dogs rather than dog owners just being more active. To put it simply, having a dog naturally makes people more active. When someone owns a dog, the motivation to keep active and the likelihood that the owner will be more physically active is higher. Go on, get a dog, it’s good for you.