May 16, 2014

Living a Long & Healthy Life is not a Mystery—It’s a Choice. ~ Michelle Brunetti

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Living in the Zone


True, there are those rare few, who despite downing vodka like it is water and eat Oreos for breakfast, live long lives.

In reality, to reach age 100, you have to have either won the genetic lottery or live an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle.

The good news is, most of us can make it to our early 90s, without chronic disease, if we make healthy lifestyle choices.

There are areas throughout the world where people live to be 100. These areas are known as the Blue Zones. Something remarkable links the remote Japanese island of Okinawa, the small Sardinian mountain town of Ovodda and Loma Linda in the US: people live longer in these three places than anywhere else on earth.

It seems Individuals in these Blue Zones eat healthy diets, get plenty of rest and exercise, live stress-free lives (they obviously don’t live in L.A.) and have strong family ties. Not surprisingly, they are less afflicted from major diseases and live longer, healthier lives.

Research has shown that any one of us can increase our life expectancy by 10 to 12 years by adopting a “Blue Zones Lifestyle.”

There are some common themes that people in Blue Zones share that can help us all to become centurions. They eat diets low in fat, meat, sugar and toxic processed food (yep…that includes Oreos). Their diets are loaded with organic fruits, veggies, fresh fish and nuts. Okay, so this isn’t a shocking revelation, but it does once again confirm that what we eat matters.

Centurions also find ways to make exercise a meaningful part of their daily routine rather than a burdensome chore. In Blue Zones, people exercise throughout the day consistently. It is often slow and relaxed (okay, the walk to the kitchen for Oreos still doesn’t qualify). Because these people are constantly moving, their bodies quickly break down toxins and waste and effectively fight off disease.

People in Blue Zones appear to have lower levels of stress (unless they have teenagers), which is consistent with research that tells us that stress creates cortisol—the hormone in our bodies produced in response to stress. It’s no secret that long-term exposure to cortisol can eventually kill us.

People who live a life fueled by stress, anger and resentment have high levels of cortisol constantly flowing in their bodies. The long-term effects of this are detrimental, increasing blood pressure and increasing the onset and severity of heart disease and several other major diseases.

Lastly, Blue Zoners recognize the importance of the two “P’s”—Purpose and Passion. The Okinawans call this ikigai (reason to live). People that live to be over a 100 in these zones have a zest for life. They maintain strong family ties and a social networking system, which contributes exponentially to their sense of purpose and overall well-being. They feel accepted and that their wisdom is valued.

Let’s face it, due to genetics, no matter how much kale we eat, how many miles we do on the elliptical or how much zest for life we possess, many of us simply won’t make the centurion mark. Sorry.

But then again—maybe living to be a centurion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (scratching head). I mean honestly, who wants to outlive everyone they know, live an Oreo-free life and wonder if there will be any social security left. I think many would agree that quality trumps quantity.

If you are already living the Blue Zone lifestyle, bravo—keep it up! If you aren’t living the lifestyle, it is never too late to begin. The human body is very resilient. Several studies support dramatic improvements in longevity and health, shortly after correcting a bad lifestyle.

It comes down to personal choice. If you want to live to be a centurion, tweak your lifestyle a little bit, and you have a darn good chance of adding a few more years to your life—or at best improving the quality of the years you have left.

Or, if you don’t care one way or another, then by all means, grab the vodka and Oreos.

Who knows, maybe over time this lifestyle will catch on and Blue may just become the new Green?


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Apprentice Editor: Sue Adair/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: Valics Lehel/Pixoto 

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Michelle Brunetti