Written by Mandy McFarland | CEO, Educate Plus | 6 October 2023
CEO BLOG // Nine Key Behaviours for a Longer Life
October is Mental Health Awareness Month and I have been listening to a fascinating podcast hosted by Shelly Craft titled The Aging Project. It features candid interviews with twelve of the world’s leading and most inspiring minds in the field of aging well. It explores a wide range of topics from genetics and brain health to meditation, menopause and eye health (and lots more!).
She features the book written by Dan Buettner called The Blue Zones which identifies the five regions in the world that have the highest number of centenarians and what their secrets are to longevity. The Blue Zone regions are Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and Ikaria (Greece) where a larger percentage of people live to 100 years old and beyond, the population remains active in their 80s and 90s and they don’t typically suffer from the common degenerative diseases found in other parts of the industrialised world. The book documents the research process, observations and interviews in each of the Blue Zones, to create a vivid picture of how the people think, live and interact with one another.
The author distils it down to nine key behaviours of these centenarians:
1. Move Naturally: The Blue Zone centenarians don’t run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they undertake activities that subtly encourage them to move without thinking about it. (Gardening, climbing hills and stairs, house and yard work etc)
2. 80% Rule: The centenarians stop eating when they’re 80% full. They believe that the 20% makes the difference in whether weight is gained or lost
3. Plant Slant: Beans, and plant-based foods, make up the majority of most of their diets. Meat (mostly pork) is consumed in small amounts and on average, eaten only 5 times per month
4. Wine Consumption: Most of the Blue Zone centenarians drink alcohol moderately and regularly, with moderate drinkers outliving non-drinkers. Importantly, most alcohol is consumed with friends and/or with food
5. Purpose: The centenarians value having a purpose in life. Knowing their sense of purpose leads to enhanced health and happiness, and adds extra life expectancy
6. Down Shift: As stress leads to chronic inflammation, the centenarians build stress-relieving rituals (reflection, naps, prayer and even happy hours!) into their routines so their bodies can recover
7. Belong: Most of the centenarians belong to some faith-based community. Being part of a community, and volunteering your time to supporting others, improves your well-being and sense of connection
8. Loved Ones First: The centenarians in Blue Zones put their families first. They make family a priority and keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home. They invest in their children so they may reciprocate their love and care, as they in turn age
9. Right Tribe: The centenarians choose to be surrounded by close friends and people who reinforce their values and habits, and who shape their health behaviours
In light of our Educate Plus community, I found it interesting that the research showed such a strong link between the value of being in a community and volunteering, and the long-term investment in health and wellbeing that this brings!
So, to each of you, and especially to the many wonderful volunteers who have assisted and supported Educate Plus this year, we wish you a long and happy life!