Some Californians are living longer

How living in a Blue Zone could extend your life expectancy
Feb 13, 2019 · Ashley Greer
Couple motorcycling together

California seems to embody the color blue. We have miles of blue ocean, countless days of blue skies, and a Blue Zone. Wait, what’s a Blue Zone? The term refers to geographic areas where people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else. In California, Loma Linda in San Bernardino County, is one of only five Blue Zones in the world.

Residents of Loma Linda are 10 times more likely to live to age 100 than typical Americans. The average male in Loma Linda lives to 89; the average woman to 91 – both 10 years longer than the national average. Loma Linda also has a high population of Seventh-day Adventists, who, instructed by their faith, “treat their bodies as temples: little or no meat or fish, no smoking or alcohol, plenty of exercise, and a sense of purpose,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

“I don’t think we’re so bold as to say that the only way to have this eight- to 10-year advantage is to be an Adventist,” Daniel Fontoura, who served as vice president and Chief Wholeness Officer at Loma Linda University Health in 2015, tells the Los Angeles Times. “We do view it as the core. But how people get there is up to them.”

You don’t have to become a vegetarian or eliminate alcohol and caffeine entirely to get on the path to better health. But you could start by incorporating some of Loma Linda’s Blue Zone residents’ daily routine into your own. Here’s how:

  1. Eat your veggies. Most of us know the key to a healthy diet involves watching our meat and sugar intake and loading up on fruits and veggies. The diet of Loma Linda’s Blue Zone residents consists largely of grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and lots of water. Some eat small amounts of meat and fish. If you’re not ready to give up meat, try cutting back. Even trimming the quantity of meat you’re eating can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

    ”Meat can have a place on your plate if you’re passionate about that – just shift the proportions,” says Kate Geagan, RD, author of Go Green Get Lean. Try making some meatless weekday meals. Mushrooms, beans, and chickpeas can be satisfying substitutes, suggests Geagan.

    Californians have access to some of the most delicious fruits and veggies year-round. Scope out your neighborhood farmer’s market for fresh produce. Need more ideas for substituting meat? A simple Google search provides endless meatless inspiration and delicious ways to increase your veggie intake and clean up your eating.

  2. Move your body. Healthy eating undoubtedly plays a role in the exceptional health of people living in Blue Zones, but they also move their bodies – a lot. Ninety-three-year-old Ester van den Hoven exercises three times a week for 60 minutes or more at Loma Linda University’s Drayson Center. You don’t need to run a marathon to reap the benefits of being active. According to Harvard Health, “Adding as little as half an hour of moderately intense physical activity to your day can help you avoid a host of serious ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and several types of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancers.” Other benefits of exercise? Better sleep, less stress, a more positive mood, a sharper brain, and improved sex life. So start moving.

  3. Embrace community. In the United States, our sense of community has become arguably less important. We’re busy. We’re glued to our phones and our social media accounts – we’d much rather shoot off a text than pick up the phone.

    But embracing community is an important principle of Loma Linda’s Seventh-day Adventists and the Blue Zone lifestyle. According to Dan Buettner, who discovered the Blue Zones and defined the term, people in these designated areas are “… investing in family, keeping their minds engaged,” and notes that, “The option to be lonely shaves eight years off life expectancy here [in the United States], but that does not exist in Blue Zones.” So put down the phone and get involved in your community – volunteer, get to know your neighbors, have dinner with a friend – engage in something that’s meaningful to you.

Drawing inspiration from California’s Blue Zone, there are many small steps you can take today, starting with eating veggies, being active, and getting involved in community to support your whole health and live a longer life.

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