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What Are Blue Zones?

Elder and daughter hugging on courch

In our quest for longevity and health, there’s a concept that has captured the imagination of researchers and the public alike: Blue Zones. These are regions around the world where people live exceptionally long, healthy lives. But what exactly makes these areas so unique? And is there something we can learn from them that might resonate with our own communities, including American Indian traditions?

 

The term “Blue Zone” was coined by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, who identified five regions in the world where people live significantly longer than average. These areas are:

blue zone regions on world map
Blue Zone Regions on World Map

  • Okinawa, Japan – Known for its high number of centenarians and low risk of age-related diseases.

  • Sardinia, Italy – Home to the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians.

  • Nicoya, Costa Rica – Where the elderly boast high levels of physical strength and active lifestyles.

  • Ikaria, Greece – Noted for its residents’ low rates of dementia and chronic illness.

  • Loma Linda, California, USA – Where a community of Seventh-day Adventists has a life expectancy far surpassing the American average.


Research has pinpointed several common factors in these regions:

 

  • Diet – Predominantly plant-based diets with minimal meat consumption.

  • Physical Activity – Natural movement throughout the day.              

  • Social Engagement – Strong family ties, social networks, and community involvement.

  • Stress Reduction – Natural ways to reduce stress, including napping and socializing.

 

Elder holding cane in hands while sitting down

While Blue Zones are not specifically tied to American Indian communities, there are parallel practices worth noting. Traditional American Indian lifestyles incorporate natural movement, a spiritual connection to the earth, and communal living—elements that echo the Blue Zone ethos. For example, the importance of community and family ties in many American Indian cultures mirrors the social structures seen in Blue Zones.

 

Continuing our exploration of healthy, community-focused living, we invite our elders to join us for this month’s Tea and Topics. On June 18th, from 1:00 to 2:30 PM, we’ll delve into the secrets of longevity found in Blue Zones and discuss how these principles relate to the medicine wheel. This session offers a wonderful opportunity to discuss how we can integrate these age-old secrets into our lives.



Exploring the secrets of Blue Zones offers us a fascinating glimpse into the power of lifestyle over genetics when it comes to health and longevity. By incorporating some of these practices into our lives, we can strive towards a healthier future, respecting both modern research and the traditions of our ancestors, including those from American Indian communities.

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