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The secrets to longevity

Back in 2000, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer and author, set out to discover what the lifestyle secrets are to a longer and healthier life. He discovered that in certain regions of the world there is a propensity to live to be over one hundred years old, and to still be living an active happy life at that age. He called these areas 'Blue zones'. The blue zones are Okinawa in Japan, Ikaria in Greece, the Ogliastra region of Sardinia, Loma Linda in California (a seventh day adventist community) and the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica.

So what sets those regions apart? What's the secret?

It seems that there are a number of factors which the so called 'Blue Zones' have in common.

What people eat is just part of the pattern, the whole lifestyle is involved in longevity.

DESTRESS- a stress free life, or finding ways to manage your stress such as meditation, prayer or yoga. Get good, regular sleep.

MOVE- low intensity regular physical activity, such as walking, gardening, or working in a physical job.

CONNECT- good social networks with friends and family, happy personal relationships, and memberships of groups often faith communities is a factor seen in all these regions.

And EATING...simply, and not too much.

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Although regionally distinct, all the Blue zone diets are variations on the theme of a Mediterranean diet. All are characterized by an emphasis on plant foods, especially beans - making for a high fibre diet rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Meat is rarely eaten (perhaps once a week and then in small portions of 75-100g) - in some regions they do eat fish but not every day.

In most of the regions people drink alcohol regularly, but strictly in moderation (1 to 2 glasses per day and often as red wine).

What's missing? Lots of meat, junk food, added sugar and processed foods.

The main meal of the day is usually eaten at lunchtime, and dinner is a light meal. People generally do not overeat but see the benefits of stopping when 80% full.

The result is a healthy population who live long, fulfilling lives. Psychologists agree that social connection, being optimistic and enthusiastic, having good relationships and getting outside and being active make us happier, and happiness in turn makes for a longer healthier life.

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