Exploring Blue Zones

Exploring Blue Zones: How To Optimize Your Healthspan

6 min read

DEC 2, 2023 - by Jennifer maples
LONGEVITY
Exploring Blue Zones

Exploring Blue Zones: How To Optimize Your Healthspan

6 min read

DEC 2, 2023 - by Jennifer maples
LONGEVITY
Only 20-30% of how you age is related to genetics, the rest is up to you [01]. Everything from your lifestyle and daily habits to your environment contribute to your healthspan (that’s the length of time you live healthy and free of disease) and for most of us, there’s definitely room for improvement.If you’ve heard of the blue zones, you know that these are areas where people are living longer than any other place in the world [02]. There’s a lot they can teach us too, which you’ll discover over the next few hundred words.
Only 20-30% of how you age is related to genetics, the rest is up to you [01]. Everything from your lifestyle and daily habits to your environment contribute to your healthspan (that’s the length of time you live healthy and free of disease) and for most of us, there’s definitely room for improvement.If you’ve heard of the blue zones, you know that these are areas where people are living longer than any other place in the world [02]. There’s a lot they can teach us too, which you’ll discover over the next few hundred words.
01

What are Blue Zones?

Back in the 2000s, Dan Buettner joined forces with some of the world’s best longevity researchers, including those at National Geographic and the National Institute of Aging, to identify regions around the world where people were consistently living healthier for longer [03].These are areas where residents reach the age of 100 at 10 times the United States national average [04]. But they’re not just living longer, they’re staying healthier for longer. And that’s significant considering the rise of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and chronic illness in other regions.
01

What are Blue Zones?

Back in the 2000s, Dan Buettner joined forces with some of the world’s best longevity researchers, including those at National Geographic and the National Institute of Aging, to identify regions around the world where people were consistently living healthier for longer [03].These are areas where residents reach the age of 100 at 10 times the United States national average [04]. But they’re not just living longer, they’re staying healthier for longer. And that’s significant considering the rise of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and chronic illness in other regions.

Fun fact: the reason these areas are called blue zones is that when Buenttner and his team discovered them, they drew blue circles around them on a map.
02

Where are the Blue Zones?

Given their diverse and international locations, you might not think Loma Linda, California, USA; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; and Okinawa, Japan have much in common, except maybe their mild climates.Upon further examination, all 5 regions have quite a few commonalities. And you don’t have to move there to reap the benefits.
03

Lifestyle habits of Blue Zone residents

In the National Geographic study that popularized the term blue zones, 9 distinct characteristics stood out. We’ll dive into each one, then show you how you can implement these habits where you live.
  1. Move naturally: The world’s longest-lived populations aren’t in the gym 24/7. Nor are they training for marathons or attempting to move up the leaderboard on Peloton. Instead, they’re gardening, tending to their homes and yards, or walking or cycling to run errands and visit friends. Because they live in environments with fewer modern conveniences, they exercise in a more natural way.
  2. Find purpose: There are different terms for it (Owkinawans call it “ikigai” and Nicoyans say “plan de vida”) but they both translate to roughly the same thing: to have a sense of purpose in life. Research shows that maintaining a strong sense of purpose can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, plus it can increase life expectancy by up to 7 years.[05]
  3. Downshift: Blue zones residents take time each day to alleviate stress in some way. For Ikarians, it’s taking a nap; Adventists in Linda Loma pray, and Sadinians enjoy happy hour. Stress causes your body to produce cortisol and cytokines that can contribute to skin inflammation and age-related diseases[06].
  4. The 80% rule: Cultures in these areas only eat until they’re 80% full, which may be a reason why they have some of the lowest obesity rates in the world. They also typically eat their largest meal in the morning and consume their smallest meal at night.
  5. Plant-forward diet: While meat (mostly pork) is occasionally eaten in these communities, it’s not the staple it is in many other areas of the world. Diets are rich in beans, lentils, and root vegetables offering abundant sources of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Due to the high amounts of phytoestrogens they consume, women in Okinawa are even able to slow menopause-related bone loss[07].
  6. Wine: New studies are emerging about the health benefits of zero alcohol[09], yet all people in blue zones (except Adventists) drink moderately and regularly, consuming 1-2 glasses of wine per day in social settings. Red wine, in particular, contains polyphenols, which have been linked to potential cardiovascular benefits and anti-inflammatory effects[09,10].
  7. Belong: Research shows attending a faith-based service 4 times a month can add up to 14 years to your life[11] – something blue zones residents know all about. While denomination didn’t seem to matter in the blue zones study, most residents living in these regions belong to some kind of faith-based community.
  8. Loved ones first: Putting family first comes with noticeable health benefits. In blue zones, many families live with their aging parents and grandparents or have committed to a life partner, which can add up to 3 years to their life expectancy[04].
  9. Right tribe: Habits from smoking to socializing are contagious (research from the Framingham Studies confirms it[12]). That’s why having the right social circle matters. Okinawans create “moais” or groups of friends committed to each other for life that support each other and their healthy behaviors.
03

Lifestyle habits of Blue Zone residents

In the National Geographic study that popularized the term blue zones, 9 distinct characteristics stood out. We’ll dive into each one, then show you how you can implement these habits where you live.
  1. Move naturally: The world’s longest-lived populations aren’t in the gym 24/7. Nor are they training for marathons or attempting to move up the leaderboard on Peloton. Instead, they’re gardening, tending to their homes and yards, or walking or cycling to run errands and visit friends. Because they live in environments with fewer modern conveniences, they exercise in a more natural way.
  2. Find purpose: There are different terms for it (Owkinawans call it “ikigai” and Nicoyans say “plan de vida”) but they both translate to roughly the same thing: to have a sense of purpose in life. Research shows that maintaining a strong sense of purpose can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, plus it can increase life expectancy by up to 7 years.[05]
  3. Downshift: Blue zones residents take time each day to alleviate stress in some way. For Ikarians, it’s taking a nap; Adventists in Linda Loma pray, and Sadinians enjoy happy hour. Stress causes your body to produce cortisol and cytokines that can contribute to skin inflammation and age-related diseases[06].
  4. The 80% rule: Cultures in these areas only eat until they’re 80% full, which may be a reason why they have some of the lowest obesity rates in the world. They also typically eat their largest meal in the morning and consume their smallest meal at night.
  5. Plant-forward diet: While meat (mostly pork) is occasionally eaten in these communities, it’s not the staple it is in many other areas of the world. Diets are rich in beans, lentils, and root vegetables offering abundant sources of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Due to the high amounts of phytoestrogens they consume, women in Okinawa are even able to slow menopause-related bone loss[07].
  6. Wine: New studies are emerging about the health benefits of zero alcohol[09], yet all people in blue zones (except Adventists) drink moderately and regularly, consuming 1-2 glasses of wine per day in social settings. Red wine, in particular, contains polyphenols, which have been linked to potential cardiovascular benefits and anti-inflammatory effects[09,10].
  7. Belong: Research shows attending a faith-based service 4 times a month can add up to 14 years to your life[11] – something blue zones residents know all about. While denomination didn’t seem to matter in the blue zones study, most residents living in these regions belong to some kind of faith-based community.
  8. Loved ones first: Putting family first comes with noticeable health benefits. In blue zones, many families live with their aging parents and grandparents or have committed to a life partner, which can add up to 3 years to their life expectancy[04].
  9. Right tribe: Habits from smoking to socializing are contagious (research from the Framingham Studies confirms it[12]). That’s why having the right social circle matters. Okinawans create “moais” or groups of friends committed to each other for life that support each other and their healthy behaviors.
04

Optimize skin health with Blue Zone habits

Since skin is your largest organ and contributes greatly to your overall health, implementing the habits of the longest-lived population makes sense no matter where you live. Here’s what you can do at home to optimize the health of your skin and help it resist the signs of aging on the surface and the cellular level.
  • Consume well: Your skin is constantly renewing itself in a resource-intensive process. For this reason, focus on eating nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and protein. Some of the most prevalent foods in the blue zones are lentils, garbanzo beans, and ube (purple sweet potato).
  • Avoid toxins: In addition to being plant-based, most of the food in the blue zones is homemade and free from toxic ingredients. Your skin care should also be free from toxins and backed by scientifically proven ingredients that are good for your skin. With OneSkin’s PREP and topical supplements, you get a simple, yet effective skin health routine that keeps your body’s largest organ healthy and happy. And because our topical supplements are powered by OS-01, you’ll actually be reversing your skin’s biological age[13].
  • Live easy: Stress causes the body to be flooded with hormones that can disrupt or even damage the functions of our skin. Large amounts of stress can cause skin inflammation, damage the skin barrier, and even cause wrinkles to form[06]. Every day, take time to destress or go for a walk outside. Just remember to incorporate a broad-spectrum sunscreen into your skin care routine, like OS-01 SHIELD.
04

Optimize skin health with Blue Zone habits

Since skin is your largest organ and contributes greatly to your overall health, implementing the habits of the longest-lived population makes sense no matter where you live. Here’s what you can do at home to optimize the health of your skin and help it resist the signs of aging on the surface and the cellular level.
  • Consume well: Your skin is constantly renewing itself in a resource-intensive process. For this reason, focus on eating nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and protein. Some of the most prevalent foods in the blue zones are lentils, garbanzo beans, and ube (purple sweet potato).
  • Avoid toxins: In addition to being plant-based, most of the food in the blue zones is homemade and free from toxic ingredients. Your skin care should also be free from toxins and backed by scientifically proven ingredients that are good for your skin. With OneSkin’s PREP and topical supplements, you get a simple, yet effective skin health routine that keeps your body’s largest organ healthy and happy. And because our topical supplements are powered by OS-01, you’ll actually be reversing your skin’s biological age[13].
  • Live easy: Stress causes the body to be flooded with hormones that can disrupt or even damage the functions of our skin. Large amounts of stress can cause skin inflammation, damage the skin barrier, and even cause wrinkles to form[06]. Every day, take time to destress or go for a walk outside. Just remember to incorporate a broad-spectrum sunscreen into your skin care routine, like OS-01 SHIELD.
05

Learnings to Optimize Healthspan

It’s not just about increasing our lifespan, but increasing the time we spend in good health, free of age-related diseases. By adopting the simple, yet profound habits of the blue zones, you can help your whole body – including your skin – stay healthier and more resilient for longer. Start by choosing whole foods over processed options, getting outside and moving daily, or finding ways to keep stress at bay. Be mindful about the ingredients you apply to your skin. And, from the bottom of our hearts, don’t forget the sunscreen.
05

Learnings to Optimize Healthspan

It’s not just about increasing our lifespan, but increasing the time we spend in good health, free of age-related diseases. By adopting the simple, yet profound habits of the blue zones, you can help your whole body – including your skin – stay healthier and more resilient for longer. Start by choosing whole foods over processed options, getting outside and moving daily, or finding ways to keep stress at bay. Be mindful about the ingredients you apply to your skin. And, from the bottom of our hearts, don’t forget the sunscreen.
Key Takeaways:
  • The majority of aging is influenced by personal habits and environment, not just genetics.
  • Blue zones are areas where people live longer, healthier lives, demonstrating key lifestyle habits that promote longevity.
  • Key habits in blue zones include natural movement, stress management, and strong community ties.
  • Adopting blue zone habits, like eating a whole food diet and avoiding toxic ingredients can significantly benefit skin health.
Key Takeaways:
  • The majority of aging is influenced by personal habits and environment, not just genetics.
  • Blue zones are areas where people live longer, healthier lives, demonstrating key lifestyle habits that promote longevity.
  • Key habits in blue zones include natural movement, stress management, and strong community ties.
  • Adopting blue zone habits, like eating a whole food diet and avoiding toxic ingredients can significantly benefit skin health.

By Felip Gerdes: Felip is an aspiring lawyer studying political science at the UC San Diego. For more on Felip, check out his LinkedIn.

By Felip Gerdes: Felip is an aspiring lawyer studying political science at the UC San Diego. For more on Felip, check out his LinkedIn.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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