9 Things That Lead To A Longer Life

Anti-aging has been on my mind lately. Not because I’m bothered by getting older, or because I’m trying to avoid looking older. I mean, I was told the other day I looked 37 (I’m 45) so I definitely enjoyed that. 

No, anti-aging has been on my mind because it’s been the topic of several podcasts that I’ve listened to lately. This one and most recently this one. The most recent podcast, “What the World’s Longest-Lived People Eat.” really got me thinking about how much our lifestyles affect our longevity. 

Studies have shown that only 20% of our life expectancy is determined by our genes.

20%! That means we have a hell of a lot of influence over how long we’re around. So yeah, our lifestyle matters. Big time. And I’m not just talking about nutrition and fitness.

Have you heard of the “Blue Zones”? They are regions in the World, (Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece); and Loma Linda, California), where the people are living much longer than average. Dan Buettner first trademarked this idea in his November 2005 National Geographic magazine story cover. His idea was to assemble a team to find the world’s longest-lived people, study them and their lifestyles, and find common denominators among all the places. 

Dan and his team found 9 things the Blue Zones all had in common.


When I heard this, I knew I needed to know what these 9 things were. And so do you. Because we all have unique magic that needs to be shared in this world, for as long as possible! Check them out…

Move Naturally. Moving naturally is about moving our bodies as much as possible, every day. It’s not about hitting the gym hard 1-2x/week, then sitting on our asses the rest of the time. Moving naturally is doing our own yard work. Doing our own grocery shopping. Walking more.

Did you read the blog I wrote about NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) for Dr. Alex at Back On Point here in Pittsburgh? If not, check it out here. Included in the blog are several ideas on how to find more movement in your day, even if you’re stuck behind a desk for most of the day.

Purpose. The Okinawans in Japan call it “Ikigai”. The Nicoyans in Costa Rica call it “plan de vida;”. For both groups of people, it literally translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”

Do you know your purpose? Million dollar question, right? The answer doesn’t have to be complicated or deep. Your purpose could be to nurture. Your purpose could be to entertain. To create. To inspire. To educate. It’s about getting clear on what gets you out of bed in the morning. Unsure? Then make yourself a list of the things you do each day (or wish you were doing each day) that energizes you. Those things that bring you fulfillment, joy, and happiness. This one may take some thought, but it’s so important.

Down Shift. My favorite of the 9. Down shift means having routines to help reduce stress. According to Dan and his team, “Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.”

I cannot stress the importance of reducing your stress! I’ve written and posted about it so much because it’s that serious. If you don’t have a down shift planned into your day, do it now. This could be a 5 minute meditation. A morning coffee with a friend or co-worker. A post lunch walk in nature. Staring at a wall and breathing. Make the time to down shift. Your health and wellbeing literally depends on it.

80% Rule. Gahhhh, this might be the hardest of the 9! For so many reasons…like you wait too long to eat, so you shovel the food in too fast. (I speak from experience.) Or because you literally have no idea what 80% full even feels like. It takes slowing down when you get to the table (and making sure you actually get to a table!). Savoring each bite. Practicing stopping for a few minutes and assessing how you feel.

Interesting to note, the people in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day. I do like this idea. Bigger meals earlier in the day, smaller as the day goes on. Seems like a great plan.

Plant Slant. The Blue Zones eat mostly plants, beans (fava, black, soy and lentils are the most popular), yams and sweet potatoes, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Meat is only eaten about 4-5 times/month.

The takeaway here, we all need to eat more veggies and fiber in our diets. Need some ideas? Then check out these delicious looking recipes.

While we’re talking nutrition and anti-aging, I recently learned that sugar is one of the leading causes of aging (and inflammation). Do I think you should eliminate it totally? No. But you should be mindful of how much you’re eating on a daily basis.

Wine At 5. The Blue Zones drink 1-2 glasses/day, usually with friends and/or food. This one surprised me a bit. But it’s one of the 9, so there you go. However before we move on, take note that it is 1-2 glasses/day. Not 4-5/day. Cheers!

Belong. Almost all of the centenarians Dan and his team interviewed, belonged to some faith-based community. The type of faith didn’t matter. I like this idea, a community of people joined together in belief. This is definitely one that’s missing from my life…How about yours?

Loved Ones First. Taking care of aging parents and grandparents. Investing in their kids. Having recently moved back to my hometown, a short 10 minute walk to my parents home, I can most definitely see the benefits. Having their support and being able to help them has been awesome. Even more awesome if you have younger kids that can benefit from having grandparents in the home or nearby as they grow up. It’s old fashioned. And I love it.

Right Tribe. The Okinawans created ”moais”, which are groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. How beautiful is that? Knowing that 4 other people have your back for your entire life?

The right tribe also means belonging to social circles that support healthy behaviors. Hmm, might be time to clean up that social house of yours. Not easy to ditch those friends and family that don’t support your healthy choices, but you can certainly limit your time with them.

I want to know which of these 9 common denominators stands out to you? Any that you struggle with? Anything missing from this list? How do you feel about aging? I’d love to hear your thoughts below…

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