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A blue zone is defined as a particular area of the world with a high population of citizens living 100 years or more, and have come to represent areas of overall increased longevity. Loma Linda, California qualifies as a blue zone in part to its heavy incorporation of religion and staple vegetarian diet rich in locally grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Nicoya, Costa Rica experiences a similar dietary benefit, which regularly incorporates local maize, beans and fruit. The environment of Nicoya itself provides necessary vitamins and nutrients for healthy living, such as calcium-rich water and abundant sunlight for increases in Vitamin D production. Sardinia, Italy upkeeps its blue zone status through a natural workout regimen based on miles of walking and light labor, along with a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, milk, bread, beans and regular glasses of wine. In Ikaria, Greece, the landscape of the blue zone also calls for light labor, such as fishing and farming, that provides regular and natural exercise to its residents. While their diet is similar to that of Sardinia’s, the added staple of honey substantially cuts down the risk of diseases. Okinawa, Japan’s blue zone status is attributable to natural exercise generated through active gardening and walking, along with an abundance and year-round local access to vegetables, herbs and protein.
The “Power of 9” refers to nine ways to improve longevity and quality of life naturally. These include natural movement, a sense of purpose, stress relief, a balanced and less occupied diet, lowering meat consumption, regular intake of wine, effective and positive social interaction, involvement in a community-centered religion, and placing loved ones first. However, it is essential to balance the ways in which the Power of 9 are applied and implemented, spacing them into a naturally-occurring rhythm rather than applying most of the concepts at the same time or in one set scenario. Natural movement can easily be incorporated through a change in daily routes or light “self-inconveniencing”. A sense a purpose is strengthened through self-actualization and recognizing one’s goals and accomplishments. Stress relief falls into many categories of application, such as spending time with loved ones or finding personal time in a day. Balanced diets following the “80% rule” are best implemented through slow removal of individual unnecessary dietary staples rather than sudden removal of all. Lowered meat consumption is easily applicable through the establishment of vegetarian habits, and a daily glass of wine before or after a meal will add an extra layer of nutritional balance. Involvement in community-centered religion may aid in the building of healthy social relationships, providing a perfect environment for implementation of social health. Placing loved ones first is a simple matter of rearranging priorities and necessities for day-to-day life, resulting in effective strategies for focusing on those around oneself.
My biological age, 17.5, is actually younger than my current age of 18.5. There is only a difference of exactly one year. My life expectancy is approximately 85.9 years, in comparison to my healthy life expectancy of 71.7 years. In this case, my overall life expectancy is higher.
This information feels skewed and inaccurate, considering genetic and quality of life-altering illness is not included. As someone who suffers from several mental illnesses, the test seems to directly associate feelings of anxiety and depression as “interchangeable”, rather than assuming it to be a medical condition that can be and needs to be treated through a variety of ways. In addition, the test does not take into account other physically damaging diseases outside of a very specific range. It feels as though there are too many lurking variables to rely heavily on this information or even to gauge it as basically accurate to begin with. My accrued years amount to a positive number of 2.6 thus far in my lifetime.
Generally, I am surprised that I have accrued years at all, considering the damage that has been done to my body by a past eating disorder. While the test may indicate that the dietary changes have aided my life expectancy due to a low weight, the disorder in question resulted in the development of anemia, a long-term sharp decrease in appetite, and the weakening/destruction of numerous body tissues. As such, I am unsure of my true accrued years, which may be substantially less as a result of the damage done to my body. As far as unrelated benefits, I do regularly practice meditation and spiritual enlightenment, along with regular hydration and time spent in nature (or generally moving around), which may have contributed somewhat.
By making changes, I can potentially add 11.7 years to my life. While “emotional changes” are out of the question (as I am already on medication and doing everything possible to regulate my mental state), I can balance my already-vegetarian diet with increased supplements of iron and nuts, a portion of my meals that is admittedly lacking. More vigorous exercise can and will be added in the future (I am currently working to afford a gym membership), which will undoubtedly aid in my overall quality of life. Seeing as I practice religion alone, I may potentially seek out a meditation partner if need be to improve the religious aspect of my life.
In summary, the aim and purpose of the Blue Zones Project is the extension of natural healthy living options to all areas of the world, regardless of location, to improve overall quality of life for residents. The project aims to promote healthy methods of incorporating life-changing concepts into everyday subconscious actions. This project will hopefully result in increased availability of the necessary tools and tips needed for longevity and healthy living, while still being convenient and accessible to those whose lifestyles cannot afford much change. Five particular cities participating in the Blue Zones Project include Fort Worth, Texas; Cedar Falls, Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; Kauai, Hawaii; and Waterloo, Iowa. Currently, the city of Cedar Falls in Iowa has fully implemented the Blue Zones Project into their local community. This implementation includes the modification of restaurants, schools, individuals, groceries and worksites for a healthier living alternative. Using the city as an example, the specific targets of the Blue Zones Project become substantially more clear and easier to plan.
Centurion environments provide primarily easy access, specific dietary staples and healthy living conditions, all nudging them in the direction of longevity. The Health Ways project is working to achieve the same result in cities and communities nationally and internationally, altering daily choices and conditions for living on a subconscious and hardly noticeable level for smooth transition into healthy living. Buettner believes that optimizing citizens’ environments and making changes to cities would better improve quality of life and result in healthier lifestyles overall. Rather than a specific cure-all, rallying towards overall change in cities, towns and neighborhoods towards healthier living will do substantially more for longevity improvement if properly advocated for and applied. Dan Buettner holds the opinion that supplements, diets and gym memberships do little to impact obesity, as they do not work for a long enough span of time that would result in an overall increase in quality of life. The alternatives are easier to access, easily measurable and far more impacting on the lives of everyday citizens who may otherwise be uninvolved in the transition to healthier living.
Primary environmental changes will result in increased movement and healthy alternatives to transportation methods. These changes may be as simple as maintaining sidewalks, or slightly more complicated, such as the construction of bike lanes. Volunteering in a community directly benefits one’s application of time and sense of purpose, regardless of the task. Volunteering for specific tasks helps the community itself move towards healthier living, as is the case with trash collection or aiding those in need. Healthier workplaces aim to improve employee well-being and morale. While changes may be either minor or major, the overall workplace becomes a more efficient and less stressful environment for workers, supervisors and consumers. Easy choices aims to improve the availability of these healthy alternatives in communities that could otherwise not provide them. “Easy” choices may include healthier foods in grocery stores, expanded areas and scenarios for exercise, or a combination of the two. Social circles also improves one’s sense of purpose, establishing and building strong social relationships with others. Likewise, building relationships with others through bonding and interaction also fosters a positive influence on oneself, leading to positive outlooks and choices. Similarly, group activities improve the overall connection of a community, such as club meetings. Inclusive of all ages, the stimulation of group activities within a community brings with it a shared sense of purpose and a common goal for the project itself.
Volunteering opportunities are abundant in my community, ranging from elderly homes to animal shelters to regular beach clean-ups, all of which hugely benefit the community as a whole. Local clubs for all ages are common, fostering a sense of community and allowing for the construction of meaningful relationships. Healthy and more natural alternatives to processed foods are beginning to appear in the form of local farmers markets and produce stands, which offer a healthy change in one’s diet for a substantially more affordable price than local grocery stores.
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