Blue Zones is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives. The concept grew out of demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, 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 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.
The five regions identified and discussed by Buettner in the book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest
- Sardinia, Italy (particularly Nuoro province and Ogliastra): one team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men reach the age of 100 years at an amazing rate.
- The islands of Okinawa, Japan: another team examined a group that is among the longest-lived on Earth
- Loma Linda, California: researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among North America‘s longevity all-stars
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: the peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29, 2007.
- Icaria, Greece: an April 2009 study on the island of Ikaria uncovered the location with the highest percentage of 90 year-olds on the planet – nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Ikarians “have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia”.
Residents of the first three places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life.
The people inhabiting Blue Zones share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity. The Venn diagram at the right highlights the following six shared characteristics among the people of Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda Blue Zones:
- Family – put ahead of other concerns
- Less smoking
- Semi-vegetarianism – except for the Sardinian diet, the majority of food consumed is derived from plants
- Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life
- Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
- Legumes – commonly consumed