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Where you live and what you think can have major influences on your health

Some places in the world have populations who are healthier and live longer than other places. These have been identified as ‘Blue Zones’ by Dan Buettner in his book of the same title. What do they share?

Here a few of the Blue Zone places identified by Dan. Make your Zone blue!

  • The Italian island of Sardinia.
  • Okinawa, Japan.
  • Loma Linda, California.
  • Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula.
  • Ikaria, an isolated Greek island

Blue Zones have a number of diet and lifestyle characteristics. Some of the Longevity Diet Tips From The Blue Zones.

  • A version of the Mediterranean diet is followed on the Blue Zone island of Ikaria, Greece. Olive oil, vegetables, beans, fruit, moderate amounts of alcohol and low quantities of meat and dairy products are usual.
  • Seventh-day Adventists eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet. They avoid meat but eat legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. The Seventh-day Adventist website says “we believe God calls us to care for our bodies, treating them with the respect a divine creation deserves”
  • The traditional Okinawan diet was about 80% carbohydrates. Before 1940 Okinawans also consumed fish at least three times per week. Plus seven servings of vegetables and maybe one or two servings of grain per day. They also ate two servings of flavonoid-rich soy, usually in the form of tofu

These are areas in the world where communities of people live longer. Importantly, they live well for longer (rates of chronic diseases are lower. It is common for people to live into their 90s or even over 100 years)

What are the health implications for you?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are conditions associated with old age. The truth is, more people of younger ages are getting these once rare conditions. The pioneers in this field of research are Professor of Neurology, Dale Bredesen and Dr Dean and Dr Ayesha Sherzai. Both the Sherzais and Professor Bredesen emphasise the importance of vegetables and healthy fats.

The NEURO Plan of Prof Bredesen – NEURO stands for:

NutritionA wholefood, plant-based diet. B vitamins and omega-3s are emphasised.  Plenty of fibre and antioxidants from vegetables. Animal products are discouraged.

ExerciseBeing active through the day, not just going to the gym (although it is recognised that exercise that raises heart rate and increases muscle strength should also be included). Exercise is important for adequate oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain. This stimulates an increase in a brain peptide called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) often described as miracle-gro for the brain.

UnwindManaging stress using meditation, yoga, music, or walking (a slow meditative walk). Stress has many damaging effects on the brain – for example, chronically high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) destroys neurons (i.e. causes brain shrinkage), triggers inflammation, affects the gut, contributes to insulin resistance and increases blood pressure – all of which are relevant for brain health.

RestoreEnsuring adequate sleep. Lack of sleep is linked to brain shrinkage (via activation of microglia, the brain’s immune macrophage cells), loss of concentration, focus and attention, low mood and increased risk of stroke. It is also during sleep that beta-amyloid plaques, part of the pathology of Alzheimer’s, are broken down.

Optimise – Complex activities that challenge your brain resulting in increased cognitive reserve. Like growing your brain by using it! These would include activities such as learning a new language or musical instrument, playing chess or bridge, learning to dance.

Plus, socialising – community activities are as important as all the above to keep a person feeling well.