Living longer

Good health habits, social engagement are keys

By THE CHAUTAUQUA HEALTH ACTION TEAM

What does it take to live a long, healthy life? Places where an extraordinary number of residents live to be 100 may hold the key.

Several years ago, demographers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain identified regions with significantly higher percentage of people living to age 100 or longer for closer study, and narrowed them down with blue circles on a map. With those circles, the concept of Blue Zones was born.

These areas included Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece. In Icaria, remarkably, almost one out of three people make it to their 90s and cancer, heart disease and dementia are nearly non-existent.

Author Dan Buettner worked with the researchers to learn what it was about these places that allowed residents to live such long and healthy lives. What they found was nothing extreme; simply a balance of good health habits and social engagement. Buettner listed nine factors, including: moderate, regular physical activity, life purpose, stress reduction, moderate calories intake, a plant-based diet, moderate alcohol intake, especially wine, engagement in spirituality or religion, engagement in family life, and engagement in social life.

Communities across the United States are now participating in the Blue Zones Project† by encouraging residents to adopt more of the habits that promote longevity. They are working across their schools, health care, employers, and local governments to make it easier for individuals in these communities to engage in healthier habits and to live not only longer, but better lives.

We don’t have official Blue Zones projects going on in Chautauqua County, but we are fortunate to have initiatives like the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities Project, welcoming churches, strong civic organizations, farmer’s markets that offer a dose of community along with healthy locally-produced foods, and no shortage of beautiful places to be active.

Springtime is a time of renewal and fresh beginnings, and it is a great time to take steps to create a miniature Blue Zone for yourself and your family. Take that walk, eat more vegetables, volunteer for a cause that is important to you, spend a little more time with friends and a little less time worrying. In short, live well: it will do your heart good!

Read more: The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Buettner, Dan (2012). Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team(CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members and is intended to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease. Follow us on Facebook at CHQ250. Please direct questions or comments to: activecounty@co.chautauqua.ny.us.

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