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5 Principles for Longevity

A group of older adults hiking and talking cheerfully

Did you know that chronic diseases affect 6 out of 10 American adults? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 out of 10 deaths are caused by chronic diseases. For those who have a medical condition, their quality of life also tends to decrease during their later years. Because chronic diseases are largely linked to a poor diet and lifestyle habits, we can modify these factors to improve health.

Have you heard of the Blue Zones? They are the 5 regions known to have the largest number of longest-living people in the world. Those regions include Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California (where most Seventh-day Adventists live); and Okinawa, Japan. Researchers found 9 common patterns among those people with healthy, long lives. These are summarized in the 5 principles below, with simple tips to implement in your life.

1. Incorporate Movement in Daily Living

Residents in the Blue Zones move through routine activities like gardening. The key is to be consistent with moving our bodies every day. Some ideas are:

  • When going to the store, park your car further away from the entrance

  • Take the stairs, even just for a few floors

  • Walk or bike to work

  • Do home chores more often, such as cleaning the floor

Research has shown that exercise helps lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and death. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise every week.

2. Know Your Sense of Purpose

“Ikigai” in Okinawa means a purpose in life. Studies have found a lower risk of death in those with a sense of purpose. Think about what you hope to achieve in life. What are you passionate about? Who do you want to help? Work towards your goals and purpose!

3. De-stress

People living in the Blue Zones take time to de-stress regularly. Some helpful ways include fun activities with family and friends, and self-care activities like meditating and taking naps.

4. Eat Plant-based More Often and Eat Until You’re 80% Full

The diets of Blue Zone residents are typically made up of 95% plant foods including vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Plant foods tend to be lower in unhealthy fats and calories than animal foods. They also provide us with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals that can help reduce our risk of chronic disease.

Eating until 80% full can help lower calorie intake and maintain a healthy weight. This helps prevent obesity, which is linked to many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. To eat less, mindful eating is a great way to start. Using a smaller plate for your meals can also be helpful!

5. Maintain Positive Social Interactions

People in the Blue Zones typically live with their grandparents, which suggests that taking care of each other may improve health. Joining a religious group has also been linked to a longer life expectancy. A large study found that regular involvement in religious activities reduced the risk of death.

In addition, surround yourself with friends that have a positive mindset and health influences. You will find yourself happier and engage in healthy behavior as well!

The Bottom Line

A healthy diet, lifestyle, and social circle are crucial to achieving good health and living a long life. It is helpful to slowly incorporate small changes that help build and maintain long-term habits. This can help you move closer towards longevity!

Learn more about healthy eating, exercise, stress management, and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.

Written by: Yasmine Cheang, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern



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