The Blue Zone: People Who’ve Lived The Longest

marybelleaston

Mary Bell Easton lived to be 101 years of age

Extreme longevity has always been a quirky thing, happening in isolated mountain villages few people visit. Until recent years, no one asked this question: Could we create those same conditions in the United States so that most people would celebrate their 100th birthday—healthy, happy, and without the aches and pains we usually associate with aging?

Absolutely, says Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, the second edition to be released in November. Not only is extreme longevity possible here, it’s already being achieved in communities across the U.S.—and, in a few instances, Blue Zones principals have been adopted by individual companies, aiming to become Blue Zones Certified Workplaces.

What Are Blue Zones?

Blue Zones are places where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else on the planet, passing their centennial years at a rate 10 times greater than most Americans. For the first edition of his book, Buettner led a team of National Geographic researchers in studying a collection of “longevity hot spots” across the globe. Their work was prompted by a 1999 Danish study of nearly 4,000 twins older than age 75; scientists found that only 25 percent of their hospitalizations were caused by genetic factors and that most of their health profiles were “most likely due to nonfamilial environment.”

So Buettner’s team set out to study long-living peoples, including those in Nicoya, Costa Rica, where residents boast the lowest middle-age mortality on earth; Sardinia, Italy, where men generally outlive women; and Loma Linda, California, where a community of Seventh-Day Adventists enjoy a life expectancy nine to 11 years longer than the average American. Much of the book’s updating focuses on Ikaria, Greece, the most recently discovered and, Buettner says, the“most extraordinary” Blue Zone.

10 Super Foods for Optimal Health

The Island Where People Forget to Die

“In America, once we hit 85, there’s about a 50 percent chance you’ll suffer from dementia,”Buettner says. “In Ikaria, the rate is about one-fourth ours. They stay sharp to the end.” But it’s not only their mental health that remains intact; four times as many Ikarian men and two-and-a-half times as many women, reach the age of 90, compared to Americans. What’s more, they stay healthier along the way, living eight to 10 years longer before contracting cancers and heart disease.

And they do it with a smile, Buettner writes in a recent article in The New York Times Magazine. In a survey of Ikarian men aged 65 to 100, some 80 percent had sex regularly—and, they reported, they did the deed with “good duration” and “achievement.” The islanders’ secret, Buettner believes, is a “gold standard” variant of the Mediterranean diet, including diuretic teas—such as rosemary, sage, and dandelion—that help to lower blood pressure and inflammation, plenty of indigenous honey instead of refined sugar, bread made of stone-ground wheat, and two to four glasses of wine each day.

Blue Zones in the United States?

Since his longevity studies began, one of Buettner’s aims has been to adapt the same principals into “Blue Zones Projects” in the U.S. The first city to enact a Blue Zones plan for initiating healthy environmental, social, and policy changes was Albert Lea, Minnesota. They called their effort the “Vitality Project,” and the results were remarkable. Life expectancy of participants increased by 3.1 years, and their healthcare costs were slashed by nearly half.

Last May, Governor Terry Branstad announced that Iowawould launch the first Healthiest State Initiative, with the towns of Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo selected as the state’s first Blue Zones Project Demonstration Sites, with six additional communities to join in early 2013.

9 Secrets of Longevity

As Buettner and his team studied the Blue Zones, they identified nine common traits shared by those communities where people live longer. He was surprised that it wasn’t only food and lifestyle, but also creating a most beneficial environment. Here’s a look at these longevity-boosting traits, known as the “Power of 9.:

  • Move naturally.      “Do your own house and yard     work, go up and down your stairs with your laundry, knead your own dough,”     Buettner advises. “Incorporate more movement every hour.”
  • Know your     purpose. “Take time to recognize your values, strengths, talents,     passions and gifts,” Buettner says. Reflect, and work on yourself.
  • Down shift.     Relieve chronic stress by finding time each day to nap, meditate or pray.
  • The 80% rule.     Cut 20 percent of your daily calories with proven healthy practices: eat a     big breakfast, dine with your family, and begin each meal by expressing     appreciation.
  • Plant slant.     Eat mostly plant-based foods, and small portions of meat no more than     twice a week.
  • Wine at 5.     Drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. This longevity tip had one     exception: those in the Loma Linda Blue Zone were Seventh Day Adventists,     who abstain from alcohol.
  • Family first.     Living in a loving, thriving family can add up to six years to your life.     Work on a positive, committed relationship and stay close to your aging     parents and grandparents.
  • Belong.“Those with the most social connectedness tend to live longer,” Buettner     says. Be part of a group of healthy-minded, supportive people.
  • Right tribe.     Good friends have a positive effect on your longevity. Support them and     adopt healthy behaviors together.

How To Deal with Stress

Eat a healthy diet.
  1. Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. …
  2. Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. …
  3. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. …
  4. Get enough sleep.

You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have more control over stress than you might think. Stress management is all about taking charge: of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. No matter how stressful your life seems, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.

We all respond to stress differently so, there’s no “one size fits all” solution to managing stress. But if you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, it’s time to take action. Stress management can teach you healthier ways to cope with stress, help you reduce its harmful effects, and prevent stress from spiraling out of control again in the future.

No matter how powerless you may feel in the face of stress, you still have control over your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation. The first step is to recognize the true sources of stress in your life.

What are the sources of stress in your life?

Start a stress journal

A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:

  • What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
  • How you felt, both physically and emotionally
  • How you acted in response
  • What you did to make yourself feel better

It’s easy to identify sources of stress following a major life event such as changing jobs, moving home, or losing a loved one, but pinpointing the sources of everyday stress can be more complicated. It’s all too easy to overlook your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to your stress levels. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.

To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:

  • Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
  • Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

How do you currently cope with stress?

Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Your stress journal can help you identify them. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem.

Unhealthy ways of coping with stress

These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:

  • Using pills or drugs to relax
  • Sleeping too much
  • Procrastinating
  • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
  • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)

Learning healthier ways to manage stress

If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.

Stress management strategy #1: Get moving

Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress, but you don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension, and frustration. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction to your daily worries.

While the maximum benefit comes from exercising for 30 minutes or more, you can start small and build up your fitness level gradually. Short, 10-minute bursts of activity that elevate your heart rate and make you break out into a sweat can help to relieve stress and give you more energy and optimism. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day. The first step is to get yourself up and moving. Here are a few easy ways:

  • Put on some music and dance around
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Walk or cycle to the grocery store
  • Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
  • Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
  • Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you workout
  • Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids

Managing stress with regular exercise

Once you’re in the habit of being physically active, try to incorporate regular exercise into your daily schedule. Activities that are continuous and rhythmic—and require moving both your arms and your legs—are especially effective at relieving stress. Walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, tai chi, and aerobic classes are good choices.

Pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to stick with it. Instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts while you exercise, make a conscious effort to focus on your body and the physical (and sometimes emotional) sensations you experience as you’re moving. Adding this mindfulness element to your exercise routine will help you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress. Focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements, for example, or notice how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Getting out of your head and paying attention to how your body feels is also the surest way to avoid picking up an injury.

When you’ve exercised, you’ll likely find it easier to put other stress management techniques to use, including reaching out to others and engaging socially.

Stress management strategy #2: Engage socially

Reach out and build relationships

  • Reach out to a colleague at work
  • Help someone else by volunteering
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly
  • Accompany someone to the movies or a concert
  • Call or email an old friend
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
  • Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach

Social engagement is the quickest, most efficient way to rein in stress and avoid overreacting to internal or external events that you perceive as threatening. There is nothing more calming to your nervous system than communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. This experience of safety—as perceived by your nervous system—results from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel.

The inner ear, face, heart, and stomach are wired together in the brain, so socially interacting with another person face-to-face—making eye contact, listening in an attentive way, talking—can quickly calm you down and put the brakes on defensive stress responses like “fight-or-flight.” It can also release hormones that reduce stress, even if you’re unable to alter the stressful situation itself. Of course, it’s not always realistic to have a pal close by to lean on when you feel overwhelmed by stress, but by building and maintaining a network of close friends you can improve your resiliency to life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.

Reach out to family and friends and connect regularly in person. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress; they just need to be good listeners. Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your bond. And remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.

Stress management strategy #3: Avoid unnecessary stress

While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable times—your commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.

Avoid the stressor

It’s not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

  • Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.
  • Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.
  • Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.

Stress management strategy #4: Alter the situation

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.

  • Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, be more assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the stress will increase.
  • Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
  • Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you’ll find it easier to stay calm and focused.

Stress management strategy #5: Adapt to the stressor

How you think can have a profound effect on your stress levels. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. Regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude to stressful situations.

  • Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.
  • Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
  • Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”

Stress management strategy #6: Accept the things you can’t change

Many sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors, such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
  • Look for the upside. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
  • Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.

Stress management strategy #7: Make time for fun and relaxation

Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.

Develop a “stress relief toolbox”

Come up with a list of healthy ways to relax and recharge. Try to implement one or more of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.

  • Go for a walk
  • Spend time in nature
  • Call a good friend
  • Play a competitive game of tennis or racquetball
  • Write in your journal
  • Take a long bath
  • Light scented candles
  • Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea
  • Play with a pet
  • Work in your garden
  • Get a massage
  • Curl up with a good book
  • Listen to music
  • Watch a comedy

Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.

  • Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
  • Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
  • Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.

Stress management strategy #8: Adopt a healthy lifestyle

In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
  • Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
  • Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

 

What is stress management?

Tips on: How to Respond to Negative People

Negative people are like human vacuum holes which suddenly come out of nowhere and just suck the life out of you. You try to stay positive and remain strong but their negativity ends up just completely draining you, you feel exhausted, and you may also start to feel depressed.
So what can you do? One of the first things to be aware of who are the negative people in your life? This may not be as easy as you first think.
Here’s some of the signs to look for:
– you experience a sense of being demeaned, constricted or attacked.
– you intuitively feel unsafe, tense or on guard.
– you sense prickly, off-putting vibes. You can’t wait to get away from them.
– your energy starts to fizzle. You may feel beleaguered or ill.”
She also refers to them by the following names you might recognize: the sob sister, the blamer, the drama queen, the constant talker or joke teller, and the fixer-upper (requires endless help).
Also, pay attention to what the person talks about. Is it always about how bad things are? Do they just complain and never actually do anything about what’s upsetting them?
Once you have a good idea on how to recognize them then you can actually work on protecting yourself from them.
Here are 10 strategies on how to deal with negative people:
1. Where’s it coming from?
Do you understand why this person is so negative? Is it because they hate their job, feel frustrated, feel trapped in their life or do they lack in self esteem so the only way they can feel powerful is by hurting others? If you can understand where it’s coming from, it’s much easier to deal with. Some people seem to think that the only way they can get what they want is to be manipulative. Remember the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” They believe this and think that if they don’t whine and complain that they won’t be heard and that this is the only way to get what they want.
Remember that the negative behavior is a reflection of them. It tells you what kind of person they are and what issues they may be dealing with. It’s not a reflection of who you are.
2. Just smile and remain completely detached
Whenever the negative tirade starts just smile and don’t say anything. Remain completely detached from it and don’t get involved in it. Leave the room if you can. The negative person is simply seeking to get a reaction from you. That’s what they feed on. Don’t let them catch you in their web of negativity because as soon as you do, that’s when they start draining your energy.
It’s the emotions that these negative people stir up in you that you need to learn to distance yourself from. Try just observing the whole scene. Say to yourself, “what a shame this person is so unhappy. Maybe some of my positive energy will rub off on her. If not, her unhappiness has nothing to do with me.” This isn’t always an easy thing to do but definitely a powerful technique. In order to get the full benefit from it, you need to make sure that you’re aware of what’s going on around you. It’s easy to slip into auto-pilot and not realize until later how drained you feel. You need to detach yourself from the event while it’s happening and just observe it.
This works well for family members who you don’t really have a choice as to whether they’re in your life or not.
3. Say, “Now tell me something positive.” 
Right after someone finished telling you some tragic story, say to them, “Now tell me a positive story” or “Tell me about something good that happened to you today.” Some people have no idea how negative they become. That’s what people surrounded themselves day in, and day out. So it’s just become a way of life for them. By being given the reminder, they may actually realize that being negative isn’t the kind of person they want to be, and may start to work on becoming more positive. Or, they may decide it’s not worth telling you their horror stories because you’ll ask them to think of something positive. Sob sisters always whining, feel the world is against themselves. feel they’re victims. probably find you are the one individual getting tired of the senseless whining-so they decide not to deal with you anymore because you don’t get sucked up into their drama.
Some people may react by saying something like, “Nothing good happened to me today.” You can tell them, like to appreciate and be grateful for all the little things that happen to me everyday. I got to work on time. I had a good breakfast this morning. I’m wearing my favorite shoes. I’m living in a beautiful home or apartment. Surely you have plenty happening for you too.”
4. Imagine a bright white light surrounding you
Yes, this might sound silly at first but if you can do it, it’s amazing how much of a difference it can make. You’ll feel that their negativity can’t touch you because you now have a force field protecting you.
I used to have a really nasty manager who would constantly try to make me feel like an idiot. When I had a shower in the morning, I would imagine that I was being covered with a protective oil so that any of her comments would just slide right off me. I also put up a post it note on my computer that said, “Oiyli” which stood for “Only if you let it”. It reminded me that her comments could only hurt me if I let them. If was my choice as to how to react to her. If I reacted to her comments, she’d gloat knowing that she’d upset me. So, the less I reacted, the less she made her comments because she didn’t get her desired response out of me.
5. Is it a sign?
I find that the “universe” uses negative people as the way to get me to move on whenever I’m getting comfortable in a situation that isn’t challenging me anymore. It’s like a prod that I should be focusing more on following my dream rather than just getting caught up in a nice, comfortable routine that isn’t getting me anywhere. If I didn’t have these people, then I would probably just stay. So, sometimes I’m really grateful to these people because they’re giving me the “kick” that I need to get out of a comfort rut. So, take the time and think about the big picture of the situation. Is it a sign that you need to make some bigger changes in your life?
6. What does it say about you?
Negative people want to get a reaction out of you and the only way they can is if they hit on one your “buttons” or something that causes intense feelings for you. For example, they may bring up past events which they know cause you to feel guilt or anger or make you feel like you’re being rejected or that you’re not good enough.
So, if there’s one particular person who drains you the most, ask yourself why is it affecting you so much? Sometimes, you can learn a lot about yourself by analyzing what feelings it’s bringing up within you. Once you figure it out and deal with it then you’ll find that the energy draining person simply has no power over you anymore.
7. Trying to feel needed
Is listening to the complaints of negative people your way of feeling valued? Does it make you feel needed? If it does, then you need to start valuing yourself more and you’ll find more quality within yourself. Be selective about who, and how you help others. Just listening to negative tales over and over helps neither of you-one party have to speak encouraging words.
A good test to see if this is happening is to notice how you feel after “helping” someone. If you feel drained or tired or annoyed or frustrated then all you’ve done is given over your own energy to them. This isn’t beneficial to you at all, and rarely does it help them in the long run.
8. Try saying, “I love you, thank you, I’m sorry” over and over 
This is kind of an “off the wall” kind of theory but it’s worth a try. If you want to read an article about how a doctor healed an entire mental institution simply by saying these words then read this story: Dr. Len!
9. It’s not your fault
You may be feeling that you have to solve the problems of the energy drainer. You’re not responsible for the person’s life nor their negativity. You don’t have to feel guilty for them being unhappy. Let go of trying to fix or help them. That’s not what they want anyway. They want your energy and so you have to be strong and not give in to them.
A suggestion for dealing with draining co-workers will be mentioning to the person that you have work to do, and you can only listen to them for a minute. If after a few minutes, the person is still going on about the same thing then either change the conversation or politely but firmly end the conversation.
It’s important to be able to let go of the idea that you owe everyone a solution. With some people you just have to let them go. They have to take responsibility for their own lives and they won’t if someone is always there to fix everything for them. So, Let Go! It sounds mean but it definitely doesn’t help them if they end up taking you down with them. In that case, it’s a lose-lose for both of you.
10. Be enthusiastic and focus on your own energy
If you can be higher energy than they are then your energy will most likely start to rub off on those around you instead of the other way around. Also, the less you pay attention to them, the less they’ll affect you. It takes only one person to bring down an entire office but the reverse is true as well in that it only takes one person to completely bring up the positive energy of an entire office.