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5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth)

5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth)

There are places on earth where, if you don’t make it to 100, it’s almost unusual.

These places have been studied by scientists for decades and have been given a name: blue zones.

As it turns out, blue zones exist only in a few places on earth:

  1. Sardinia, Italy
  2. The islands of Okinawa, Japan
  3. Loma Linda, California
  4. Nicoya, Costa Rica
  5. Ikaria, Greece

But there’s one reason why these people have been studied so much by scientists.

Beyond just living to 100 in much higher rates than virtually anywhere else in the world, these people suffer from a fraction of the health issues that most westerners suffer from in their 30s, 40s, 50s and later.

Dementia, heart issues and depression are almost non-existent among these people. What this means it that these people live a fantastic quality of life their entire (long) lives – not just at the end.

That is why this research is so tremendously valuable to most of us.

What’s Wrong In the West?

In the United States, 50% of the people that die every year die from Heart Disease and Cancer – both of which are somewhat preventable.

We know that there are cultures on earth without heart disease.

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And we know that there are cultures on earth without cancer or incredibly low rates of cancer.

And we know that both have a very strong diet and lifestyle component. Yet we haven’t quite figured out why so many people are dying.

What’s amazing is that in these blue zone communities (in particular, Ikaria, Greece) cancer rates are a fraction of what they are in the west, heart disease rates are almost HALF of what they are, and dementia doesn’t even exist.

What that means is that not only do these people rarely get many of the diseases you and I would get (and thus live a more enjoyable, pain-free life), they enjoy optimal health throughout their entire lives – almost until the day they die.

By living a certain lifestyle, not only do you improve your health NOW, this ensures you avoid the major killers later in your life.

So rather than just saying “okay, but what if I don’t want to live to 100?” these suggestions will help you live an optimally healthy and happy life now.

So What Are These Similarities?

Longevity Venn Diagram

    Researchers ended up drawing conclusions between three of these particular groups: the Sardinians, the Okinawans, and the Loma Linda, California group.

    What’s interesting is that their “secrets” are not all tangible things.

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    I’m going to introduce you to the five similarities among the groups, which aren’t exactly secrets, and then after I’ll show you the individual secrets each of these cultures had. To me, the secrets are what come after these five.

    Here’s what they are:

    #1 Family

    Family is stressed as the most important thing in the lives of these people. It’s a priority to regularly see them, visit them, and interact with people part of their own tribe.  Virtually everything in these cultures revolves around social interaction.

    #2 No smoking (obvious)

    #3 Plant-based diet

    The major part of each meal was plants.

    Note: this does NOT mean they didn’t eat meat or carbohydrates. It means that (like I’ve recommended in this six pack article), the foundation of each meal is plants, followed by a smaller portion of meat or refined carbohydrates.

    #4 Constant low level of exercise (maybe not what you’re thinking of).

    When we usually think of physical activity these days, we usually think of going to the gym and hitting ithard.

    In reality, the people that regularly live to be the oldest aren’t going through extreme workouts – they’re just getting regular physical activity like gardening, hiking, or other labor required for farming. And they’re getting this activity every day.

    Regular low or moderate level exercise every day is their exercise.

    #5 Social engagement

    We see “social ties/family” as 2/5 key characteristics of people who live to 100.

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    Family and social ties make up an entire 30% of this “secret.” Pretty interesting, right?

    But what I wanted was specifics. Having a social life is great, but what was it about the specific characteristics of each culture that was enabling them to live to an old age?

    The Specific “Secrets” of Each Culture

    I want to quickly go into a bit of detail on each culture just so you can see how intangible some aspects of optimal health are.  Check out some of the qualities that researchers noted about each culture, that weren’t necessarily as concrete as “diet and exercise.”

    The Ikarian Secret

    The Ikarians in Greece have 10x the amount of people that reach 100, compared to the United States.

    Here are some of the really interesting things, tangible or otherwise, about them:

    • They put their family first and have really close family ties – stronger social ties have been linked to lower rates of depression and stress (Source).
    • They walk an average of 5 miles a day on uneven terrain (as shepherds).
    • They drink red wine – where studies usually show back and forth research on alcohol, red wine is packed with antioxidants – what’s interesting is that the Ikarian (like the Sardinian) variety of red wine has three times the normal levels of most red wine.

    Ikarians also have a more relaxed outlook on life and laugh whenever possible. (More on the studies behind the Ikarians here).

    The Okinawan Secret

    The Okinawans in Japan have a fascinating concept they partly attribute to their long lives, called ikigai– which is a reason for waking up in the morning. It’s almost like a purpose you give to life (or to the day). (Source)

    • They partly develop this ikigai by having incredibly strong social ties – friends and family that help provide emotional, physical and even financial support (+1 for friends!) (More on ikigai here).
    • Many of the local Okinawans have their own gardens that they play in daily (and obviously get food from, too).
    • The Okinawans also follow a mostly plant diet, but what’s interesting is that they also have a personal rule where they only eat until 80% full, called hari hachi bu.

    Some Okinawans in their 90s still even have an active sex life. Talk about impressive!

    Nicoya, Costa Rican Secret

    The Costa Ricans have a very similar rule as the Okinawans – they have something called a plan de vida – a reason to live (source).

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    • The plan de vida is essentially a purpose or meaning they give to life, which frequently revolves around their social circle or their family. Family is again a huge component of the Nicoya people’s lives.
    • The Nicoyans also believe in hard work, they rise with the sun, sleep at least 8 hours a night, and eat their biggest meal in the morning – and their smallest meal at night.

    ***

    The Million Dollar Question: Is Longevity “All About” Diet and Exercise?

    Honestly, we may never be able to synthesize and write a scientific article on “why” these people live long. We know diet, lifestyle, etc. are critical factors but there are probably many other intangible factors associated with their lifestyle of longevity and great health.

    I want to draw your attention to a few interesting things: the intangible aspects of these people’s lives.

    Their social circles. The importance of family.

    Having a “reason for living.”  Working very hard and being active (not in the gym!), but also having a relaxed mental attitude towards life so they aren’t getting overly stressed.

    What’s incredibly interesting about these blue zones is that we typically associate longevity and health with fitness and food. In reality, there is an entire mental, social, spiritual and psychological realm that is equally as important.

    What About You?

    Are you making sure to take into account the intangible aspects of health? Your “social” health, your mental health, your “happiness” health, your spiritual health?

    All these factors play much more into health and longevity than you might think. Eating right and exercise are fantastic tools and critical for health, but so is inner cultivation and the cultivation of friendships.

    5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth) | Personal Excellence

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    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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