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The Blue Zones Book Summary

The Blue Zones

Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

Recently, I ready the book titled “Blue Zones” and felt moved to summarize it so that I could share with many of the busy people I know that I feel would benefit from its lessons, but might not have the time to sit and read it.

The basic premise of this book is that there is no one ingredient to longevity. Aging is inevitable, as there is no ‘brake’ for slowing it down. The name of the game is to keep from pushing the accelerator pedal so hard that we speed up the aging process. The average American, however, by living a fast and furious lifestyle, pushes that accelerator too hard and too much.

This book is about discovering the world’s best practices in health and longevity and putting them to work in our lives. Most of us have more control in how long we live than we think. In fact, experts say that if we adopt the right lifestyle, we could add at least 10 good years and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely.

Accordingly Dan Buettner traveled the world with a team of scientists and researchers and identified the four places (Blue Zones) that had the highest concentrations of centarians (people living past the age of 100), to meet them and learn from them, and in doing so identified 9 lessons that were consistently found within the lifestyles of the oldest people on earth.

Here is a recap of his findings.

Sardinia Lessons

  • Eat a Plant Based Diet Accented with Meat – Breads, garden fruits and vegetables. Only grass fed animal meat
  • Put Family First – All family members are cared for. Children raised in multi-generational environment suffer lower rates of depression, suicide and stress
  • Drink Goats Milk – May help protect against inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s and heart diseases
  • Celebrate Elders – Grandparents can provide financial support, childcare, love and wisdom. Also provide a balanced perspective of life’s brevity
  • Walk 5 Miles a Day or More – Non impact cardiovascular
  • Drink 2 Glasses of Red Wine Daily – Lowers stress and health benefits from artery scrubbing Flavanoids
  • Laugh with Friends – Be sarcastic and social

Okinawa Lessons

  • Embrace an Ikigai – A reason to get up every day, a clear roll and responsibility
  • Rely on a Plant Based Diet – Goya has antioxidants and compounds that lower blood sugar
  • Get Gardening – Source of activity and fresh vegetables
  • Eat More Soy – Flavanoids in Tofu protect the heart and guard against breast cancer
  • Maintain a Moai – A safety net of friends to share with and be close to
  • Enjoy the Sunshine – Vitamin D maintains strong bones and skin
  • Stay Active Daily – Walk a lot. Eating and socializing on floor mats require getting up and down off the floor several dozen times daily builds lower body strength and balance
  • Plant a Medicinal Garden – Mogwort, ginger, turmeric in daily diet
  • Have an Attitude – Be feisty and keep younger people in your company

Loma Linda, California (7th Day Adventist) Lessons

  • Find a Sanctuary in Time – 24 hour Sabbath makes time for family, camaraderie and nature. Eliminate all distractions, electronics, and so on. Pause all work and responsibilities
  • Maintain a Healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) – Correlates to blood pressure, blood cholesterol and cardiovascular disease
  • Regular, Moderate Exercise – Regular low intensity exercise like walking reduces chances of heart disease and certain cancers
  • Spend Time with Like Minded Friends – Share values and support habits
  • Snack on Nuts – Adventists who consume nuts five times per week have about half the risk of heart disease and live about two years longer than those who don’t
  • Give Something Back – Volunteer and focus on others
  • Eat Meat in Moderation – Try using meat as a side dish instead of a main meal
  • Eat an Early, Light Dinner – Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper
  • Put More Plants in Your Diet – Adventist who ate legumes such as peas and beans three times per week had a 30 to 40 percent reduction in colon cancer. Adventist women who consumed tomatoes at least 3 or 4 times per week reduced their chance of getting ovarian cancer by 70 percent over those who ate tomatoes less often
  • Drink Lots of Water – Drinking 5 or 6 daily glasses of water reduces the chances of having a fatal heart attack by 60 to 70 percent compared to those who drank considerably less

Costa Rica Lessons

  • Have a Plan de Vida – Have a strong sense of purpose
  • Drink Hard Water – Calcium reduces heart disease and stronger bones
  • Keep a Focus on Family – Provides a sense of purpose and belonging
  • Eat a Light Dinner – The earlier the better
  • Maintain Social Networks – Frequently visit neighbors. Listen, laugh, and appreciate what you have
  • Keep Hard at Work – Enjoy physical work in your daily chores
  • Get Some Sensible Sun – Vitamin D fights against osteoporosis and heart disease
  • Embrace a Common History – Traditions and traditional diets of maize and beans

Lesson #1 – Your Blue Zone

  • Inconvenience Yourself – Opt for manual devices around the house: kitchen utensils and appliances, no remote control, manual garage door opener, manual can opener, lawn mower, rake and broom. Use the stairs
  • Keep Moving – Don’t work out to workout. Make a list if physical activities you enjoy. Build activity into your everyday life. Walking everyday relieves stress and aids in digestion after a meal
  • Make a Date – Get out and socialize. Combine with physical activities as opposed to sedentary ones
  • Plant  a Garden – Good physical activity with range of motion, relieves stress, and provides fresh vegetables
  • Enroll in Yoga Classes – Make sure and practice at least twice weekly

Lesson #2 – Hara Hachi Bu

  • Serve & Store – Make your plate, put away excess food, and then eat. Reduces intake by 14%.
  • Make Food Look Bigger – A quarter pounder burger with more veggies will fill you just like a half pounder with less
  • Use Smaller Vessels – Sell your plate wear and buy smaller plates and tall, narrow glasses
  • Make Snacking A Hassle – Avoid purchasing tempting foods. Hide them if you have them
  • Buy Smaller Packages – People consume 23% more food than needed when larger portions are available
  • Give Yourself a Daily Reminder – Buy a scale and check it daily
  • Eat More Slowly – Learn to recognize when you are 80% full and stop
  • Focus on Food – No distractions like TV or computers that facilitate mindless eating. If you are hungry, stop and eat a meal
  • Have a Seat – Eat purposefully, not on the go
  • Eat Early – The biggest meal of the day should be eaten in the first half of the day. Reduces snacking urges and provides needed calories for more active hours

Lesson #3 – Avoid Meats & Processed Foods

  • Four to Six Vegetable Servings Daily – At least two vegetable servings per meal
  • Limit Intake of Meat – Limit servings to twice a week and no larger than a deck of cards
  • Showcase Fruits & Vegetables – Put a plentiful fruit bowl in the middle of your kitchen with a note in the bottom that says ‘fill me’. Instead of hiding vegetables in the refrigerator compartment that says ‘produce’ put them front and center
  • Lead With Beans – Make them the centerpiece of Lunch and Dinner
  • Eat Nuts Everyday – Caution: a 1-ounce serving of nuts typically ranges from 165 to 200 calories

Lesson #4 – Grapes of Life

  • Buy a Case of High Quality Red Wine – Maintain a stockpile
  • Treat Yourself to Happy Hour – Include nuts as an appetizer and friends to socialize with
  • Take It Easy – More than 2 glasses a day counteracts benefits

Lesson #5 – Purpose Now

  • Craft a Personal Mission Statement – Why do you get up in the morning?
  • Find A Partner – Find someone to whom you can communicate your life purpose, along with a plan for realizing it
  • Learn Something New – Learning a musical instrument or a new language preserves mental sharpness

Lesson #6 – Downshift

  • Reduce the Noise – Get rid of as many, or better yet all, TV’s and Radios you can. If you have them, keep them in one room only
  • Be Early – Being 15 minutes early gives you time to rest and prepare for appointments or events
  • Meditate – Create a clam and comfortable space in your home, and include meditation into your daily routine for at least 10 minutes

Lesson #7 – Belong

  • Be More Involved – Take a more active role in organizations you have an interest in
  • Explore a New Tradition – A new religious faith or belief group
  • Just Go – Plan one hour per week for eight weeks of religious services

Lesson #8 – Loved Ones First

  • Get Closer – Consider a smaller home to create an environment of togetherness. Large spread out homes segment family members. If you must have a large home, establish a family room
  • Establish Rituals – Children thrive on rituals & enjoy repetition. Make one meal a day sacred, establish a tradition for a family vacation, have dinner with grandma every Tuesday night, and purposefully celebrate holidays
  • Create a Family Shrine – Pick a wall and hang lots of pictures
  • Put Family First – Invest time and energy into your children, play with them. nurture your marriage and your spouse and honor your parents

Lesson #9 – The Right Tribe

  • Identify Your Inner Circle – Know the people who reinforce the right habits and who you can rely on in case of need. Look through your contact list and notate them. Family members should be first on the list
  • Be Likeable – Don’t be a grump. Have frequent visitors and real social networks
  • Create Time Together – Spend at least 30 minutes a day with members of your inner circle. Share a meal or take a walk together. Building a strong friendship requires some effort, but it is an investment that can pay back handsomely in added years

As you can see, there are some common themes among the blue zones, and at their core, they are all simple and logical steps to living a full and healthy life.

Do you incorporate any of these practices into your life? If so, what and how?

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