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Nine simple suggestions that may add years to your life

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

For a recent long flight out to B.C. I picked up a newly published book, I had seen reviews about.  It is entitled; ‘The Blue Zones of Happiness’ and deals with lessons learned from studying what sociologists have determined are the happiest populations on Earth.  I will be writing about what I have learned from this book, in a future column…but first you may be asking why Blue Zones?

Dan Buettner has been working for years to identify hot spots around the globe where people enjoy exceptionally long, happy, and healthy lives.  He calls these places “Blue Zones.” People living in Blue Zones often grow old without suffering chronic diseases like cancer, obesity, and diabetes.  He studied five of these places in the world, but Buettner thinks people everywhere can adapt the habits and practices common to Blue Zones.

The term first appeared in 2005 in the November National Geographic magazine cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life” by Buettner.  Buettner is a National Geographic Fellow and a bestselling author.  He is an explorer, educator, author, producer, storyteller and public speaker and is the founder of the concept of  “Blue Zones”.

Buettner identified five geographic areas where people statistically live the longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece) and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. He offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations, in general, live healthier and longer lives.

He and his researchers found 6 common threads among the longest living people in those 5 areas.

  1. They put family first ahead of all other concerns.
  2. They smoke less than average populations.
  3. They are semi-vegetarians as the majority of their food is derived from plants
  4. Moderate physical activity is a constant and inseparable part of life.  Some of these populations live in mountainous areas.
  5. Legumes are a regular part of their diet.
  6. They are socially active and well integrated into their communities.

Studies show that about 10% of our life expectancy is a result of our genes.  The other 90% is indicated by our lifestyle. To ensure we have a chance of living a longer life we might consider the following:

  1.    Partake in moderate, regular physical activity, not necessarily going to the gym or doing marathons.
  2. We should have a life purpose, meaning having a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. This involves mental activities such as planning and forethought.  It is my opinion that if you have no commitment, you risk falling into addictions including being addicted to TV or video games.
  3. Stress reduction- Unfortunately in our area, there are many commuters and we know that this can be a real stressor especially among those driving an hour or more to work.
  4. Having a moderate calorie intake.
  5. Following mostly a plant-based diet.
  6. Most of the populations studied had a moderate wine intake.
  7. Studies indicated that those who engaged in spirituality or religion lived longer.
  8. Engagement in family life by spending at least 30 minutes of daily quality time with your children and family.
  9. Engagement in social life by joining a group or community club that shares your interests or values.  This could be religious, social or professional.

I encourage you to look up Dan Buettner especially on YouTube and to consider reading one of his books.  Next column I will deal with his findings on Blue Zones of Happiness.  Meanwhile on a scale of one (being miserable) to 10 being very happy, where do you rate your happiness level?  If you rate eight or less, you may find some suggestions in my next column.  Meanwhile I’m at ‘bdfox@rogers.com’.