WHAT is the true elixir of youth? After researching “blue zones” around the world, experts have come up with two key factors that can extend your life.
Chosen for their links to long lives, the “blue zones” included the region of Barbagia (Sardinia, Italy), where there is the world’s largest concentration of centenarians, Okinawa (Japan) inhabited by the oldest women on Earth, Icaria (Greece) with the lowest senile dementia levels, Loma Linda (California) which has a life expectancy 10 years over the average in the US, and Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica) which has the second-largest community of centenarians in the world.
According to The Conversation, these “blue zones” were analysed to see why their residents seemed to live longer by a team of specialists including doctors, anthropologists, demographers, nutritionists and epidemiologists, led by American researcher Dan Buettner.
They identified nine key factors to longevity:
• Intense and regular physical activity while undertaking daily duties. These people do not live a sedentary lifestyle.
• Having an “ikigai” — a Japanese word used to define the “reasons for being” and why we wake up every morning.
• Reduction of stress, which can involve taking time-out for regular habits such as taking a nap in Mediterranean societies, praying or conducting a tea ceremony in Japan.
• “Hara hachi bu” — a Confucian teaching that suggests we only eat until we are 80 per cent full.
• Prioritising a diet that is rich in plant-based products. Meat, fish and dairy products are consumed in lower amounts.
• Moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages.
• Being part of social groups that promote healthy habits.
• Interacting with religious communities.
• Building and maintaining solid relationships with family.
These factors were then distilled into two main habits.
Firstly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which involves regular intensity exercise, taking a “break” from daily stress and eating a mainly plant-based diet without filling up or drinking excessively.
Secondly, being part of groups that support these healthy practices such as family, religious community and social groups, which all have their own “ikigai” or “reason to live”.