In spite of claims through the centuries, I am not aware of the discovery of a Fountain of Youth.
But following up on a National Geographic cover story, “The Secrets of a Long Life,” researcher and author Dan Buettner wrote the best-selling book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest.”
In short, there are five geographic zones where people live longer — substantially longer, than the rest of us. The longest-lived people on Earth live on the island of Sardinia, Italy.
Other designated Blue Zones are Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, Calif.
While Loma Linda does not have the ratio of centenarians the four other regions have, people there routinely live into their 90s, making this area the United States' longest- lived people. The Loma Linda story is unique in that a majority of the population is Seventh-day Adventist and for religious reasons do not eat meat, smoke or drink alcohol.
Residents of the four other zones do not share the “alcohol-free” lifestyle and in fact, wine is considered a key component of their health.
Researchers found nine common lifestyle characteristics among these people groups.
First: They engage in moderate, regular physical activity and that does not mean working out at a gym. Their physical activity is built around movement. They walk to church, the store and to friends' and relatives' homes; pumping iron means gardening with hand tools rather than with mechanized tools. They average about 105 minutes a day of physical activity.
Second: Life has purpose. Okinawans call it “Ikigai,” which means “a reason for being.” It is a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to enjoy life. It may be work, a hobby or helping raise children and grandchildren. This is closely associated with numbers 7, 8 and 9.
Third: Stress reduction. This is generally seen as a purposeful “slowing down.” In each blue zone society it may be meditating, praying, napping or enjoying a happy hour. But it is not your idea of the typical American happy hour.
In blue zones they gather with family members or friends to share stories and enjoy a glass or two of wine.
Fourth: Moderate calorie intake. In blue zones the 80 percent rule is common. They eat until they are 80 percent full. The 20 percent gap is credited with weight control and not feeling sluggish or sedentary, which leads to being more active.
Fifth: They enjoy a plant-based diet. They are “semi-vegetarians,” consuming about five servings of meat per month. Grains, fruits and veggies make up the bulk of the diet, with legumes at the center of the diet.
Sixth: Moderate alcohol intake. This relates to number three, where a glass or two of wine is consumed daily when socializing with friends. This is one characteristic the Seventh-day Adventists do not share with the other blue zones.
Seventh: Engagement in spirituality or religion is key. A full 100 percent of the 253 centenarians interviewed for the book said they belong to a faith-based community and attend services weekly.
No other lifestyle characteristic was common to 100 percent of the interviewees and no other characteristic was more interrelated to the other characteristics. Having a life purpose, praying or meditating for stress relief and engaging with a group of friends are all common to people of faith.
Eighth: Engagement in family. In the blue zones people are more committed to family first. Children keep their parents close and grandparents are more involved in raising their grandchildren. They also are more likely to commit to a single life partner.
Ninth: Engagement in social life. Okinawans realize not everyone is born into a family or has a circle of friends who share their values, purpose and healthy behaviors so they create a “Moais,” a group of five friends who commit for life to support one another in healthy behaviors.
It is a fascinating study. I encourage you to go to bluezones.com and take the survey to learn how you may add years to your life by making simple changes.