Blue Zones and Costa Rica

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Blue Zones and Costa Rica

The list of reasons to live in Costa Rica apparently keeps growing. As if the sheer beauty, biodiversity, people, culture and economic reasons weren’t enough- Costa Rica has just made it atop a very selective list. Some may say, researchers are just discovering what Costa Ricans have known all along- the Pura Vida is just a catch phrase. Rica, specifically, the Nicoya Peninsula has been dubbed, a ‘Blue Zone.’

Blue Zones is a project that studies various areas of the world where people routinely live active/productive lives beyond 100 years of age. Researchers have classified these longevity ‘zones’ by their inhabitant’s capacity to live longer, on average, than anyone else on the planet. For a different perspective on Blue Zones, visit michael alan's BLOG

Pura Vida seems to be truer than EVER.

The Blue Zones short list:

Sardinia, Italy – In the mountain villages of Sardinia, researchers found a zone where men typically reach 100 years of age.

Okinawa, Japan – On the islands of Okinawa, researchers studied a group that appears to be among the longest lived in the world.

Loma Linda, California – The group studied in Loma Linda were Seventh-day Adventists, who are some of America’s longevity VIP’s.

Inhabitants of these places, as well as the folks on the Nicoya Peninsula, appear to yield a high rate of centenarians. Enjoying an overall healthier life, these centenarians experience a smaller percentage of the diseases that routinely kill people in other regions of the developed world. So what makes the difference? How do these people unknown to each other, live past 100 years of age? Well, the people that live in Blue Zones do indeed share many common characteristics.

WORK-PURPOSE, and of course a little red wine.
WORK-PURPOSE, and of course a little red wine.
  • Family comes FIRST.
  • Centenarians are rarely smokers.
  • Fruits and Veggies- very little meat.
  • Typically, they never completely STOP working in one way or the other- as moderate physical activity is a MUST.
  • Active and social within their communities, with people of all ages.
  • Legumes are frequently part of their diet. Some of the more popular legumes are: alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, and peanuts.
  • People who drink a glass or two of red wine a day tend to live longer.
  • High altitude also appears to be good for you. Thinner air actually lowers one's blood pressure, and more exposure to the sun means more vitamin D.
  • People who eat nuts seem to live two or three years more than average -- although, it’s not really known whether it’s the nuts, or not eating as many potato chips.

Each Blue Zone seems to have its own little twist:

  • In the mountainous region of Sardinia, Italy, farmers work hard in the fields, drink red wine and eat fruits and vegetables they grow themselves. They are also taught at an early age to respect their elders.
  • In Okinawa, Japan there is no word for “retirement” per se – instead they focus on “the purpose of one’s life” and “that which makes a life worth living.” Here people live about seven good years longer than the average American. They have a five times greater chance of reaching the age 100, and they have about a fifth the rate of cancers and heart disease that kill Americans.
  • The Seventh Day Adventist Church located in Loma Linda, California stands out amid the sprawl of Southern California because among other factors, the church gives people a powerful sense of community.
  • For reasons doctors are trying to understand, men in Nicoya, Costa Rica live to age 100 four times as often as men in the United States -- even though their medical care costs only about 7 percent as much.

Research indicates that about 25 percent of how long we live is predicated by our genes. The rest, seventy-five percent, is determined by our lifestyle, which we can obviously do something about. It’s suggested that there are about eight things people can do (activity, eating fruits and vegetables, social interaction etc) and EACH can give them six to 18 additional good months of life. That said, it is also stated that people who merely focus on diet and exercise are missing three quarters of the picture.

Other areas researchers are investigating are: how relationships figure into the longevity story, how people from the Blue Zones deal with stress, what kind of supplements they take, how herbal medicines factor into the picture, and what role does religion play.

It’s no wonder Costa Rica made it onto this list, the simple life has always been one of top priority. And not just the folks on the Nicoya Peninsula, it wouldn’t be surprising if many such Blue Zones were found in Costa Rica in the very near future. Literally the entire country seems to put family first, work hard/play hard, socialize, have a religious base, and beans have never been a problem.