The five ‘Blue Zones’: Where the world’s healthiest and oldest people live

Sep 29, 2023 | 0 comments

Dusk view of a village on the north shore of Ikaria Island, Greece.

Author Dan Buettner worked for more than a decade to identify hot spots of longevity around the world. With the help of the National Geographic Society, Buettner set out to locate places that not only had high concentrations of individuals over 100 years old, but also clusters of people who had grown old without health problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes.

His findings—along with easy steps you can take to live more like these cultures — can be found in his book, The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer: Lessons From the Healthiest Places on Earth.

The subject also is now the focus of a new series on Netflix: Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. Here is some of what Buettner found.

A fishing boat off the coast of Ikaria, Greece.

IKARIA, GREECE
This island eight miles off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea has some of the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia. Research links their increased longevity with their traditional Mediterranean diet, which is heavy in vegetables and healthy fats and contains smaller amounts of dairy and meat products.

A father and son walk along an Okinawa Island beach.

OKINAWA, JAPAN
The largest island in a subtropical archipelago controlled by Japan, Okinawa is home to the world’s longest-lived women. Food staples like Okinawan sweet potatoes, soybeans, mugwort, turmeric, and goya (bitter melon) keep Okinawans living long and healthy lives.

The commune of Villagrande Strisaili in the Ogliastra Province of Sardinia, Italy.

OGLIASTRA REGION, SARDINIA
The mountainous highlands of this Italian island boast the world’s highest concentration of centenarian men. Its population consumes a low-protein diet associated with lower rates of diabetes, cancer, and death for people under age 65.

A group of people play doubles on a pickleball court in Loma Linda, California.

LOMA LINDA, CALIFORNIA
This community has the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the United States, and some residents live 10 more healthy years than the average American by following a biblical diet of grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

A 96-year-old sabanero, or Costa Rican cowboy, on horseback in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.

NICOYA PENINSULA, COSTA RICA
In this region of Central America, residents have the world’s lowest rate of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians. Their longevity secret lies partly in their strong faith communities, deep social networks, and habits of regular, low-intensity physical activity.
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Credit: National Geographic

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