Emulate residents of 'Blue Zones' for optimum health

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"To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear." - Buddha

Much has been written about the "Blue Zones," the regions throughout the world where people live longer, healthier lives, with little disease. These are concentrations of areas where many residents reach the age of 100 or more.

How can following the habits of persons who live in these Blue Zones help us live longer, happier and more active lives?

Where are these Blue Zones?

  • The Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy: Highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Okinawa, Japan: Oldest women.
  • Loma Linda, California: Residents live 10 years longer than average Amerians.
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: World's lowest rates of middle-age mortality, second highest rate of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece: Lowest rate of dementia.

What are the nine keys to longevity in the Blue Zones?

  • Move naturally: Regular exercise, walking and biking.
  • Have a strong sense of purpose: "Why I wake up in the morning." This is even more important after retirement.
  • Downshift: Relieve stress, enjoy quiet time, mediate, pray, do yoga or take a nap.
  • The 80 percent rule: Eat less by making smaller portions; snack less.
  • Plant slant: More fruits and vegetables, little to no meat.
  • Wine at 5 p.m.: Yes! Drink a glass or two of red wine. Now, this does not mean the glass should be 8 ounces.
  • Right tribe: Surround yourself with those who build, rather than drain your energy; friends that support healthy behaviors.
  • Community: Stay involved, volunteer or be active in church.
  • Loved ones first: Family first, and this includes fur friends. If you are living alone, and are healthy enough to care for an animal, dogs and cats can add happiness to your life. Consider an animal that is 4 to 5 years old.

All of these habits are also vital to brain health.

In a recent presentation, we discussed how important it is to have regular health checkups such as mammograms, stress tests and colonoscopies. The brain is the most important of all organs and rarely do people even think about having a memory screening. But we should!

Anyone over the age of 55 should have such a screening at least every few years, or more often if they notice a change in their memory. The good news is Memory Matters does free screenings. All you have to do is make an appointment.

Brain Boosters, our eight-week course that focuses on brain health, will take place in two locations this fall, beginning Sept. 18 at Memory Matters and Sept. 21 at Hampton Lake. For more information call us at 843-842-6688.

Your homework for this week is to start a Healthy Brain Journal. Record what you ate, how often you got up and moved, how much quality quiet time you allowed for yourself. Did you spend time with people that inspire you or make you laugh?

Work on being happy and healthy, my friends. Make every day count.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org

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