In his seminar series from earlier this year, Dr. Jeffrey Bland alluded to a new book by Dan Buettner entitled, Blue Zones: Lessons from Living Longer from People Who've Lived the Longest. Borrowing from Buettner's book, Dr. Bland summarized the most common denominator's of culture's where people are living longer and healthier - areas now being reffered to as Blue Zones. Interestingly, one of only four Blue Zone's globally is right here in the United States, in Loma Linda, California, in a close-knit Seventh Day Adventist community.
Here is a list of Blue Zone characteristics:
High Level of Daily Activity
Daily "thoughtless" activity and exercise is key to good health and longevity. Thoughtless activity is the kind one does without necessarily thinking about it, such as raking the yard, mowing the grass with a push mower, walking to your destinations if possible, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. With some forethought, there are countless ways to get exercise without putting in time at the gym. If you enjoy gym workouts, however, or must use gym equipment because of an otherwise busy lifestyle, then occupying the mind with stimuli not focused on the exercise while you are at work is a great alternative. In most gyms these days, you can find a "cardio theatre," where television sets are positioned in front of the cardio equipment. This outside stimuli really does help in keeping your mind focused other than the discomfort you may be feeling during a grueling and/or boring workout.
Another characteristic of Blue Zone living is calorie restriction. An easy way to do this is simply eat more slowly, because by eating fast you put food into the stomach faster than what the satiety chemicals like CCK can respond to. By the time CCK kicks in makes you start feeling full, you've already eaten significantly more than you would have otherwise. Also, eating smaller amounts more often is also a way to keep hunger pangs at bay but controlling your caloric intake at the same time.
Cut Down on Meat and Prepared Foods
I'm not advocating a vegetarian diet necessarily. But eliminating animal protein at least one meal per day can reap benefits. It really does not take much meat to provide all the protein that the average person needs to stay healthy, and the saturated fat that is characteristic of beef and pork doesn't help. Eating leaner meats like poultry, fish, and eggs is a great way to get high quality protein without as much saturated fat.
Also, eliminating or at least cutting way back on fried foods in favor of broiling and baking is a huge plus, and choosing plant-based whole foods over refined, processed, packaged foods is the high road.
Red Wine in Moderation
All Blue Zones are known by their intake of red wine in moderation. The phytochemicals in red wine are potent, life-giving antioxidants. Of course, I have often questioned whether or not it's the phytochemicals in red wine alone that provide the benefit, or if there is also something beneficial about the alcohol itself. I think most would be prone say the former, but there is a scripture in the book of Psalms that I find interesting. It says wine is a gift from God given to "make glad the heart of man." It appears that the relaxing effects of the alcohol may have benefit, as long as it is not abused. No more than one small glass per day is the upper level of consumption that seems to show benefit. More than that and wine can have the reverse effect.
For those who do not enjoy wine, there are, of course, non-alcholic alternatives. Organic grape juice, or better yet, supplementing with nutriceuticals that provide phytochemicals either in a broad spectrum product, or in a high potency product are great alternatives.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will highlight the next 6 Blue Zone characteristics.