BLUE ZONES – Heaven on earth and we can make it ours.

 

You may have previously come across the term ‘Blue Zone’.  It is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live significantly longer lives. The concept grew out of demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain[1] who identified Sardinia's Nuoro province as the region with the highest concentration of male centenarians. As the two men zeroed-in on the cluster of villages with the highest longevity, they drew concentric blue circles on the map and began referring to the area inside the circle as the Blue Zone. Dan Buettner[2] identifies longevity hotspots in Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece); and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, and offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives.

 

Blue zones, understandably, tend to be swarming with scientists who are trying to crack the secret which appears to be keeping people free of disease well into advanced old age. These people routinely live well into their nineties, and blue zones boasts a disproportionate number of centenarians. But the point isn’t longevity; it’s their good health and vitality. Somehow they seem to manage to avoid the chronic diseases that dominate the rest of the world and to remain physically and mentally sound and active until they die at an advanced age. The scientists come here to find out why, but the answers are quite obvious.

 

First, local diet mostly comprises of fresh fish and plant-based, unprocessed foods packed with nutrients; clean water; local olive oil; herbal tea; and of course red wine. Add in the fresh air, the fact that the primary means of transportation is walking—usually up and down hills—and the easy access to swimming in warm salt water. Predominantly they also sleep late and like to nap each day, as a way to refresh themselves from their daily labour in the fields and vineyards. It is often the case that these places are a community, its people united by means of culture and faith, by the impulse to render mutual aid and emotional support, and by peer pressure to partake.

 

To the scientists examining blue zones’ off-the-charts longevity, the explanation for the population’s remarkable good health is to be found in those mutually enhancing behaviours in all the factors that affect our physiological processes, from diet to exercise, from sleep to emotional sustenance. And above all, a pure and simple life.  A wholistic way of life.

Remarkably, when blue zone residents move to other places and consequently adopt a different lifestyle, they start having chronic illnesses just like the rest of us.  In essence, it is not genes that protect them from chronic illness but the message they send to their genes through their individual lifestyle and environment. If the message is changed, they too succumb to the same incapacitating disorders that we all suffer from.

 

That is why blue zones are so clearly a stepping stone for the fight with chronic disease. To win, we need to change the messages our individual lifestyle, diet and environment are sending to our genes. We will have to create our own ‘blue zone’ in our own way.  A wholistic lifestyle is supported by Functional Medicine approach to personalised treatment.

 

 

 

[1] Poulain M.; Pes G.M.; Grasland C.; Carru C.; Ferucci L.; Baggio G.; Franceschi C.; Deiana L. (2004). "Identification of a Geographic Area Characterized by Extreme Longevity in the Sardinia Island: the AKEA study". Experimental Gerontology 39 (9): 1423–1429

 

[2] The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest; 2008