What can you do to improve your longevity? A lot! Research has shown that only 20% of how long an average person lives is influenced by genes. The rest depends on our lifestyle and environment. In other words, our choices define how long we live.
It is perfectly possible to reverse-engineer a formula for longevity. Actually, it’s already been done. There are longevity hotspots around the world where people statistically live the longest. They produce the world’s highest percentage of centenerians. Dan Buettner has identified them as the Blue Zones:
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Sardinia (Italy)
- Ikaria (Greece)
- Nikoya (Costa Rica)
- Loma Linda (California, US)
The secret sauce
What is the set of factors these populations living in different parts of the world share? Unlike many of us, people in the blue zones don’t pursue health: dieting, supplementing, taking pills or rolling into and out of exercise programmes. What they pursue is a lifestyle with longevity as a welcomed side-effect of it. The common denominators that serve as a base for a longer life are the following :
As a result of these interconnected factors, people from the blue zones suffer less from chronic diseases. The beauty of this lifestyle is that people don’t need to get out of their way to pursue any these things. They live in an environment that is conducive to them living a healthier and longer live. They live in areas that are abundant in healthy food, that are designed for people rather than cars. They have a deep sense of purpose that is not about following their passions as we know it in the Western world. Instead, it’s based on responsibility and altruism – being there for their communities.
Where are we today?
The sad part is that if you choose the opposites to the shared characteristics above – you arrive at a lifestyle that is predominant in the high income countries: processed food, sedentary way of life, dependence on hand-held devices, loneliness despite connectivity, stress and anxiety instead of sense of belonging. Result? Declining life expectancy.
Habits are sticky
How can we make lasting changes to our lifestyle? By automating better health so we would live rather than make healthy choices. All it takes is to start small: incorporate one change at a time (e.g. wholesome breakfast) and strive to make it a habit!