The secret to a longer, healthier life? ‘Blue zones,’ research shows

There may not be a fountain of youth, but you can still take steps to extend your life.

Researchers have called areas where people live longer and healthier “blue zones.” The original locations include Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California. But you don’t have to live in these places to get the life-extending benefits.

ExploreScience pinpoints just why grandmother-grandchild bond is so special

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author, is the founder of Blue Zones.

Buettner’s newest effort, “The Blue Zones Challenge: A 4-Week Plan for a Longer, Better Life,” is a book that helps explain how you can live longer.

“I am simply distilling what the world longest-living people have done and showing you a way to put it to work in your life,” he told Today.

Buettner wrote the original National Geographic cover story on the Blue Zones, “The Secrets of Long Life,” according to Today. His work on the subject grew out of Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain’s work. Their research was outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology. It identified Sardinia as the region of the world with the highest concentration of male centenarians.

PennState Extension has cited Buettner’s research in outlining key things you can do to adopt longevity practices from around the world in metro Atlanta. Here are a few of them.

ExploreSavannah named No. 3 best city in the world — why it’s a good spot to retire

Eat until you’re 80% full

It can be tough to do on special occasions or during the holidays, but overeating can get in the way of longevity.

Okinawans stop eating at 80% fullness instead of 100% fullness. Doing so makes it harder to eat too many calories, which can lead to weight gain and chronic diseases associated with it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they include high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Incorporate natural movement

Exercise is important, but you may not always have to go for a run, lift weights or do yoga. People in blue zones get physical activity through gardening, walking and cooking.

“Research on men living in the Sardinian Blue Zone discovered that living longer was associated with activities like raising farm animals, living on steeper slopes in the mountains and walking longer distances to work,” PennState Extension reported.

Such activities can help you stay aligned with the American Heart Association’s recommendations to move more and sit less.

Stay close to family

There are benefits to regularly gathering with family. In blue zones, families are tight-knit. Younger generations value older ones and help look after them. A 2017 study found that grandparents who help watch their grandkids or who offer support to others could live longer than other adults their age.

“We know that as you age, you want to stay physically active; you want to stay socially engaged; you want to be cognitively stimulated; and all those things allow you to age well,” Cleveland Clinic Dr. Ronan Factora, who did not take part in the study, told the Cleveland Clinic Newsroom.

To get specialized news and articles about aging in place, health information and more, sign up for our Aging in Atlanta newsletter.