These ‘Blue Zones’ Can Teach Us About Health & Longevity

By Leah Freeman-Haskin


Blue Zones are areas in the world that have a high concentration of individuals over 100 years old, living without health problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. The characteristics of these areas vary greatly from their natural environments and healthy diets to a strong sense of community or “tribal” living. One thing is for sure, food and lifestyle make all the difference in longevity and health.

Ikaria, Greece

This island eight miles off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea has some of the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia. Researchers link this longevity and health to their traditional Mediterranean diet, which is heavy in vegetables and healthy fats, and contains smaller amounts of dairy and meat products.

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Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa is another island and the largest in a subtropical archipelago controlled by Japan. It is also home to the world’s oldest woman. It is believed that food staples like Okinawan sweet potatoes, soybeans, mugwort, turmeric, and goya (bitter melon), keep Okinawans living long and healthy lives.

Ogliastra Region, Sardinia

Located in the mountains of an Italian island, this region boasts the world’s highest concentration of men living to or past 100 years old. The people consume a low-protein diet associated with lower rates of diabetes, cancer, and death for people under age 65.

Loma Linda, California

The only location in the United States to make the list, Loma Linda has a high concentration of individuals who live 10 years longer than the national U.S. average. The community of Seventh-day Adventists eat a biblical diet of grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

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Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Having lived in the Nicoya Peninsula for 5 months, I can attest to the vitality and health of its people. Residents here have the world’s lowest rate of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of people living to or past 100 years old. In this case, it is believed that the longevity of the Nicoya people is based on their strong faith communities, deep social networks, and habits of regular, low-intensity physical activity.

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