9 Longevity Hacks from the Blue Zones

9 habits to help you live to 100

These are all common tactics and procedures that are implemented in the so called blue zones. This, of course, does not guarantee living to 100, but it’s a good start and always a very good reference to help you improve some aspects or areas of your day to day routine or in general your life. These can be woven and integrated into our modern and busy lives.

A multi model approach not a miracle list !!

1- Do not smoke! This is a fairly obvious one that has been around for the past 20 years!! I will not explain the negative aspects of smoking here as I am sure you all know. The other aspect which is more prevalent in our industrial times is air pollution.

The number of where diabetes cases related to pancreas deregulation, cardio vascular diseases, strokes and other conditions in non smoking people  is on the increase and more and more are being  connected to poor air quality inhalation. So it is very important to look after the air quality that you breathe. For example, if you cycle to work wear a mask as it will reduce the amount of vehicle exhaust pollutants that you inhale.  Or you could fit an air filtration system in your home or office to improve the air quality that is inhaled. A good HEPA ( high efficiency particle air) filter is the Pure Zone air filtering device. These air filtration devices simply pull the air in and force it through a filter, in order to retain as many tiny particles as possible, making the air you breath so much cleaner !!

Air pollution over our cities
Air pollution over our cities.

2- Avoid processed or packaged food! When you open the pantry of people living in the blue zones they have real food. Hand picked roots or tubers, pickled food in jars, fresh produce from the farms nearby, some wine locally produced and a vast selection of wild plants. Packaged and/or processed food are very handy and practical in our fast paced lives, but it come with a high price to pay. Those foods  ( even the healthy ones ) contain sugar and some sort of vegetable oil. In general sugar will cause your blood sugar levels to go up and down and poor quality vegetable oil will cause your inflammation levels to go up and down during the day. Instead, introduce high amounts of legumes as they have a low glycemic index, such as sweet potato, lentils etc. An interesting is “The blue zone kitchen: 100 recipies to live to 100” from Dan Buettner.

Introducing wild plants and herbs  into your diet is also one of the lessons you can take from those blue zones. If your gut is fine you can start introducing herbs and spices like nettles, mint, thyme, rosemary, turmeric and cayenne amongst others. This in turn will expose your body to some small doses of plant hormesis ( xeno hormesis) and make your gut more resilient. Dr Steven Gundry explains more about the hormesis effect in his book “The Plant Paradox”. Another fascinating read is “Eating on the wild side” by Joe Robinson.

The Japanese have this amazing practice called Shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing). This is to take advantage of all the polyphenols and essential oils that emanate from plants and trees and have healing effects on the lungs. It is as simple as walking in a forest, breathing deeply, opening your senses to nature and feeling present in the moment.

Forest breathing
Enjoy natures natural healing powers….forest bathing..

The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

  • Boosted immune system.
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep

Once you make this a regular practise you will start experiencing other benefits such as:

  • Deeper and clearer intuition
  • Increased flow of energy
  • Increased capacity to observe and understand nature’s processes
  • Overall increase in sense of happiness

3- Low level activity all through the day! You don’t see people in blue zones going to the gym. Gyms are a man made fabrication so that we can satisfy this primal urge to move. In ancient times, soldiers, warriors and gladiators would have trained all day, protecting cities, buildings, going to war and fighting the enemy.  Thankfully, we do not live in those times and gyms, cross fit boxes and any other modern way to get us moving are fantastic tools. If used in moderation we can add years, if not decades, to our lives.  In the blue zones  the natural way to be strong is to be outside all day.. building fences, lifting rocks, working the land, walking for miles to another village, feeding the animals, dealing with cold or heat, and any other activity that demands a continuous body adaptation.

Our modern lives are far from this model, however, we can simulate some low level activity in our daily routine.  If you are working  at a computer all day, try a standing work station, carry around your office something weighty like a 5 liter bottle of water, a barbel, a  kettlebell, maybe you can even fit a pull up bar, take frequent breaks outside, stretch, etc. In fact anything that will get you up and make you move.  Before and after work, walk as much as you can, to work, to the supermarket, walk with the dog or with your friends. 

So in other words, structure your life to be moving as much as possible!!

Your best companion during those long forest walks….

4- Social engagement! There is a growing epidemic of loneliness in our modern societies because people tend to interact more digitally than physically with one another.  When you are face to face with someone you are exposed to their pheromones, to the electrical signals of their brain, to their smells (which is not always a good thing!!!), to the oxytocin hormone that they release when you hug them, touch them, or shake their hand.  You simply cannot simulate or replace this with a digital interaction. In truth,  you need a certain amount of physical exchange and communication with real people. In the blue zones  they eat together, drink red wine, they laugh, they get louder,  they play card games, dominos, or board games together and have a full emotional, physical and social interaction. I said they drink together… this must be explained.   Drinking one alcoholic drink a day for women and two drinks for men is acceptable. For example if you drink some organic red wine  with no pesticides, it is full of antioxidants and polyphenols that are beneficial to your health.  In general, people in the blue zones drink in moderation and usually wine, so don’t feel guilty about enjoying your glass of red wine. 

Social engagement is key to longeb¡vity
Social gathering with family and friends.

5- Fasting.   When you go a long period between meals without eating the body goes into a phase called cellular autophagy.  This autophagy is a clean up procedure of cellular debris, a clear out of old cells and  renewal of the body.  Fasting or intermittent fasting  is not a calorie restriction diet but  more a window of time in which you do not eat at all.   There are many forms of fasting but this is not the subject of this article. I found the following books very informative if you wish to learn more .. Dr Jason Fung “The complete guide to fasting” or Dr  Valter Longo “The longevity diet” book.   Some of the most popular intermittent fasting techniques are 12 to 16 hours without eating and, for the more seasoned fasters, 24 hours is quite common. In many cultures and religions, fasting is not only synonymous with cleansing or purifying your body but also it is a time to develop your mental clarity and perhaps a certain connection to a higher power.

6- Strong life purpose! Ikigai or Plan de vida... everybody should have a very good reason to get up in the morning, a very clear distinct idea of the reason they exist.  It is a good idea to have a phrase ready in your mind that sums up what is your life purpose.  Mine would be…  I  Pedro Gracia endeavour to inspire people to live a joyful, healthy and fulfilling  life until they are 100 or more.. you need to have a single sentence that is bulletproof and that immediately sums up your life purpose. So when the going gets tough and you are stressed, feeling low or lost,  this single sentence will remind you what its all about.  In the blue zone, they seem to have that single thing, that motivation or vision, that keeps them going, very few feel tired, almost all of them live their lives, getting up out of bed every single day and living with a purpose.  So if  you need to  develop that sense of purpose, there is a good book from Mastan kipp called “Claim your power”, to set your life purpose in 40 days… It’s simple things like what makes time go by quickly in your eyes,  what you enjoyed doing when you were a child aged 10/12 or what Mark Manson says in his book “The subtle art of not giving a f**k”, “what makes you forget to eat or poop”. So as you begin to identify these things, you are going to be on the track  towards what your true purpose in life is and what will keep you alive for a long time. Because the alternative of  you waking up every day doing what you don’t like or not knowing what is your purpose is, will not help with your longevity.

Enjoying every moment
Enjoy every single moment with passion.

7- Low stress levels.  We rely too much on external mechanisms such as relaxation music, binural beats, meditation apps, etc, in order to calm our daily stress.  Please don’t get me wrong as these tools are great and, with time, can do the job. But we have a much quicker way to regain a state of calmness in less that a minute. What we have with us all the time is our breath!   Every hunter gatherer or tribal society  has got some type of breath work or practice to help them cope with day to day stress. With these next three techniques you can regain almost instant control over your levels of stress.  Box breathing is the first one – slowly breathe in to the count of 4, hold that breath to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4 and then repeat until your heart beat slows down.  Alternate nostril breathing is our second hack to control stress, long and slow  breath in through the right nostril, long and slow  breath out through the left one.  Finally in third position the  4, 7, 8 technique. Breathing in to the count of 4, 7 count hold and 8 count exhale.  So if you practice these techniques you will find it to be second nature and you will be able to take control of your stress levels in an instant !!

8- Engage in some kind of spiritual discipline or belief in a higher power. Many religions can give you a sense of connection to a higher power, also a sense of community where you belong, a reason to pray for others and ourselves and in some cases the discipline to fast, to be devoted and to worship.  Religion works for some but not for all.  Others prefer to connect with their higher self through meditation, breathwork, solitude, yoga, writing a  journal and listing what you are grateful for, and many more. I think some kind of engagement in the spiritual disciplines is very important because it gives you hope, a sense of purpose and that you are playing a role in the grand scheme of things.   This will definitely boost your longevity by years and possibly decades.   Many of the centenarians in the blue zones engage in some sort of spiritual discipline.

Praying will connect you with a higher power
Prayer is the nearest approch to a higher power.

9- Sex and intimacy. Research has shown that a person who continues to be sexually active into old age is sending a very powerful biological message to his/her body. The body believes this person is still “useful” in procreating and therefore will want to keep him/her well and healthy. Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones”, states the following “we know that people who are having sex after the age of fifty, at least twice a week, have about half the rate of mortality than people who aren’t”. A close and loving relationship that includes intimacy, both physical and emotional, is one of the most powerful antidotes to aging!!

Do you have any other tricks to live longer? I would love to hear about them, thanks!

    DISCLAIMER The material on this website is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.


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