I have ruminated in the past on the fascinating topic of Dan Buettner’s decades-long obsession with the cheerful folks in the so-called ‘Blue Zones’ regions around the world who live freakishly long and productive lives that put us all to shame here in our self-absorbed financially prosperous nation. Here then are a few random thoughts on some of the less commonly discussed longevity ‘secrets’ of these amazing centenarians and super-centenarians:
- Exercising daily, preferably swimming in cold water, as do the Abkhasians, which not only improves circulation and muscular function but also activates SIRT1 longevity genes via cold thermogenesis. Caveat: a senior with a heart condition should probably refrain from jumping into freezing water if they want to avoid a heart attack!
- Retirement is an unknown concept amongst Abkhasians. This one is huge! Personally, I have never understood the logic of retiring from being a productive member of society, unless you are holding down a job that you have hated your entire adult life, in which case you could still “retire into” more fulfilling work, instead of transitioning to an unproductive vegetative state in which you “retire” your sense of purpose and meaning. In other words, why would any sane person choose to stop working altogether if they are healthy and vital, unless they wish to become no longer being healthy and vital? I myself chose nutrition science as my livelihood specifically because I am so enamored with the subject/profession that it is something I would do for free, as a hobby, were I independently wealthy. The point is that the Blue Zones illustrate the reality that retirement is a virtual death sentence.
- Eating real food, mostly plants, not too much. Thank you, Michael Pollan!
- Vilcabamba is known as “The Valley of Peace and Tranquility“. Enough said. With peace and tranquility in your life, your HPA (Hypothalamic/Pituitary/Adrenal) axis is never dysregulated, your immune system is strong as a bull, resistant to infections and cancer, and you are virtually “bulletproof” to chronic and acute disease states precipitated by stress that are the bane of modern Westernized societies.
- Trading a preoccupation with material things for laughter, pure and simple. People who laugh and live in a state of almost perpetual joy, independent of less-than-ideal external circumstances tend to live longer and with higher quality of life, regardless of how much money they have in their bank account, or even if they don’t have a bank account!
- Viewing aging as a natural transition in life, something beautiful and joyous, instead of dreading growing old, as we do here in America. Elderly people are held in the highest respect in the Blue Zones. I can assure you that a wrinkle-removing skin cream company would not do well if they set up shop in the Blue Zones regions!
Please note that, although this is a nutrition blog, I have not once brought up the topic of diet in this particular post, because I am trying to emphasize the critical point that factors such as one’s state of mind and priorities, emotional well-being, a sense of purpose and meaning, are at least as important in the healthful longevity equation (if not more so) as diet and exercise. You are not just what you eat, you are who you love, how deeply you love, how often you laugh, and whether or not you have the disposition to expect nothing, accept everything, and celebrate all that is pure and good in your life!