What Blue Zones Can Teach Us About Longevity

Louis Malinow, MD Author
By Louis B Malinow, M.D. , MDVIP
July 11, 2000
What Are Blue Zones?

Blue Zones are the places on earth where people stay healthier and live longer than other parts of the world. These include the Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Okinawa, Japan. What do these very different places around the world have in common? 

  • Residents lead active lives with walks, gardening and lots of physical activity.
  • They slow down, smell the roses and enjoy life more than just occasionally.
  • They eat wisely. They don't overeat. They eat tons of plants. Most drink a little.
  • Surrounded by loved ones and friends, they have a sense of connection and belonging

A closer look at each Blue Zone can teach us more about how to apply these principles in our own lives – so we might enjoy more happy, healthy years, too.

Ikaria. An article in The New York Times described Ikaria “the island where people forget to die.” A few features of typical life on Ikaria: limited use of cars, lots of walking, nightly socializing, frequent sex, and a little alcohol every day. In fact, other than Loma Linda, residents of Blue Zones tend to drink a small amount of alcohol regularly.

Sardinia. They set an example for how to treat the elderly. For example, a grandmother is likely to be venerated, included in everyday activities and the center of family gatherings. Strong social bonds can add years to one’s life. Think of how different our social structures are in the U.S., where the elderly are often marginalized.

Loma Linda. Loma Linda is home to about 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists. Every week they take a break from the stress of daily life to observe a 24-hour Sabbath, a time to worship together and enjoy discussions about common interests. They eat a mostly plant-based diet and stay active. The church also emphasizes and provides opportunities to volunteer.

Nicoya. Part of the culture in Nicoya, is having a “plan de vida,” a reason to live. A strong sense of purpose can be healthy for both body and mind. Other traits of the elderly in Nicoya: they did physical work most of their lives and continue to enjoy physical chores; eat a light dinner; and get plenty of sunshine, a crucial source of vitamin D.

Okinawa. Residents here enjoy the longest disability-free life on the planet. They have one-fifth the rate of colon and breast cancer, and one-sixth the rate of heart disease, as we have in America. They use smaller plates and stop eating before they are full. They also embrace the concept of Ikigai, loosely translated as a reason for living. This helps keep the elderly positive and active.

If you don’t live in one of these Blue Zones, you can still live a long, healthy life. As part of the MDVIP Wellness Program, your doctor can customize a wellness plan for you and your needs. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Find one near you by clicking here.

About the Author
Louis Malinow, MD Author

Louis B. Malinow, MD is an MDVIP-affiliated physician that's been practicing in Baltimore for more than 20 years. He's board certified in Internal Medicine, a certified Hypertension Specialist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Lipidology. Dr. Malinow graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed his residency at Stanford University Hospital in Stanford, CA. Dr. Malinow is one of the only physicians in Maryland that specializes in both high blood pressure and high cholesterol management. He is also a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and is recognized by Best Doctors and Top Doctor by U.S. News & World Report and Baltimore Magazine. Dr. Malinow has appeared on numerous news programs advocating for preventive care and wellness.

View All Posts By Louis B Malinow, M.D.
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