What are Blue Zones?
Blue Zones is an anthropological concept that describes the characteristic lifestyles and the environments of the world’s longest-lived people. The term first appeared as an international concept in the November 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life” by Dan Buettner. Buettner identified five geographic areas where people live statistically longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece) and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. He offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives.
Characteristics of Blue Zone residents
The people inhabiting Blue Zones share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity. The Venn diagram at the right highlights the following six shared characteristics among the people of Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda Blue Zones:
- Family – put ahead of other concerns
- Less smoking
- Semi-vegetarianism – the majority of food consumed is derived from plants
- Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life
- Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
- Legumes – commonly consumed
In his book, Buettner provides a list of nine lessons, covering the lifestyle of blue zones people:
- Moderate, regular physical activity.
- Life purpose.
- Stress reduction.
- Moderate calories intake.
- Plant-based diet.
- Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.
- Engagement in spirituality or religion.
- Engagement in family life.
- Engagement in social life.
Blue Zones – Grants Pass
“By focusing on helping change the settings where people spend most of their time we can make healthy choices easier, and we can make Grants Pass an even better place to live, work, learn, pray, and play.”
Blue Zones Project was brought to Oregon by Cambia Health Foundation in support of Oregon Healthiest State. Community champions Asante Health System, AllCare Health, Primary Health of Josephine County, and Siskiyou Community Health Center are providing support for the Grants Pass initiative. Office space is being donated by Club Northwest.
“Our vision is for Oregon to be the healthiest state in the nation” Sarah Foster of Oregon Healthiest State told the audience. “To do this we have partnered with Blue Zones Project to create opportunities for lasting well-being transformation. It is so inspiring to see the Grant Pass initiative move from planning to implementation, especially knowing how much local thinking and leadership is guiding the work.”
A Community-wide Approach to Well Being
We don’t just rely on individual behavior change. We improve community health by making permanent and semi-permanent changes on multiple levels. We improve or optimize city streets (smoking policies, bike lanes, sidewalks), public spaces (parks, lakes, walking paths), schools (cafeterias, safe walking paths to school), restaurants, grocery stores, employers, faith-based organizations, and community involvement.