One of the most interesting occurrences in public health in recent years has been the initiatives related with the Blue Zone projects. The blue zones are pockets of people around the world who live longer and healthier lives than the majority of the rest of the world. In short, these small clusters of people are ten times more likely than an average American to live beyond the age of 100. The 5 internationally recognized blue zones are located in:
- Ikaria, Greece
- Loma Linda, California
- Sardinia, Italy
- Okinawa, Japan
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
Researchers then began to investigate what, if any, similarities these populations might have with one another that we could learn from. After investigating, the research teams came up with 9 evidence based similarities that could be applicable for public health in other areas. These findings included:
- Moving Naturally – finding ways to move and stay active consistently.
- Purpose – Having a sense of purpose for each and every day.
- Stress Reduction – Having a consistent, positive, way to reduce stress. (Napping, exercise, friendship, etc.)
- Eating 80% Rule – Not eating until full (eating only 80% of the way there). Eating their smallest meal in the late afternoon and then not eating for the rest of the day.
- Plant Focus – Beans of all sorts were the focus of most diets. Meat was ate only once or twice a week. Smaller serving sizes.
- Wine Consumption – With the exception of the California Blue Zone group, all other groups drink 1-2 glasses of wine per day with friends and / or with food.
- Sense of Belonging – Attendance in regular faith based services (once a week).
- Family First – Living nearby or with aging parents, grandparents, and committing to a partner and devoting time to their children.
- Right Tribe – Virtually all of the longest lived people are part of small social circles that promote health behaviors and lifestyles.
The current estimates are that lifestyle changes in line with those above could affect most people by adding 10-12 years. A variety of US cities have started to look for ways to influence and encourage lifestyle changes in line with the 9 factors above. As nurses, we are also in a unique position to offer advice and interventions in line with the factors above that have been proven to lead to longer and happier lives. Small scale implementation studies have shown remarkable results, and these types of practices may very well be the key to living longer in our fast paced modern world.