Would you like to live to be 100 years old?  Most of us would pause as we think about the quality of life at that age.  In America, to be a centenarian is rare and typically someone in poor health and needing must assistance from others.

A Danish study on twins suggests that only 25% of how long we live is dictated by genes. The other 75% is determined by our lifestyle and the everyday choices we make. I recently read ‘The Blue Zones’ by Dan Buettner who supports the positive impact of a healthy lifestyle.

Blue Zones, a term dubbed by Buettner is areas of the world with concentrations of some of the longest-lived people. He visited Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, a community of Loma Linda in California and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

After many years in the Blue Zones, Buettner and his team determined the lessons for living longer:

  • Purpose
    • In Okinawa, there is NOT a word for retirement. The centenarians are very active. The Okinawa word  ‘ikegai’ means the reason to wake up in the morning. The Cosa Ricans call it ‘plan de vida’. 
  • Companionship/Tribe
    • The Okinawan word ‘moai’ roughly means meeting for a common purpose. They meet daily which is a combination of fun and rewarding sessions that combine mental and financial support as well as some gossip!
    • People in the Blue Zones have a strong social network and we are not talking about Facebook. Several generations live in the home and all contribute.  Meals are shared with family and friends. The centenarians have a strong sense of family and service.
  • Exercise
    • Exercise such as daily low intensity walking is essential to longevity. Centenarians would walk daily, some for many miles to go to market or tend the animals.
  • Nutrition
    •  The Okinawa people are able to grow gardens all year round which they use for food and medicine. They eat lots of garlic and turmeric which is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer.
    • Nuts are eaten daily by the Sardinians. Beans and legumes several times a week is important in the Loma Linda community as well as limiting meat to small portions. The Blue Zones of Costa Rico eat lots of corn (maize), beans, pork, vegetables and an abundance of fruit.
    • In America, we say ‘I am full’. In Okinawa they say, ‘I am no longer hungry’ and stop eating rather than waiting for a full feeling which can significantly lower the daily calorie intake.
    • There is a strong sense of wellness from nutrition.
  • Rest and Relax
    • The Blue Zone centenarians pause to watch a beautiful sunset as they had done every day for centuries. 
    • The Lima Linda centenarians rest on the Sabbath. No work, organized sports, homework or shopping.
    • A Sardinian woman of 107 years advised ‘Life is short. Don’t run so fast you miss it.’
    • ‘We stay busy enough to keep the Devil away but not so much that we get stressed. It’s a clean, pure life’ was spoken by a Costa Rica centenarian.
  • Peace
    • Healthy centenarians have faith and a strong sense of a higher power that comforts and supplies their needs. ‘God will provide’ was a common phrase heard in Costa Rica.
    • A NIH study found that those who were part of a church community had a 20% less change of dying at any age.

The Blue Zone project supports that if we optimize our lifestyle, we can maximize our life expectancy. To start down the road to longevity, find the Vitality Compass on www.bluezones.com. This 33-question tool is a great start to learn how to live longer and healthier!


Dr. Julie Wood is a Nurse Practitioner and has been serving the Middle Tennessee area for more than 30 years, specializing in adults with obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Office is located at 401 First Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, TN and statewide with telehealth. Dr. Wood can be reached at 931-325-5560, www.diabetesmgtassociates.com, info@diabetesmgtassociates.com.  

Articles are meant to be informative and should never replace the advice of your health care provider.