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The “Power 9” Healthy Blue Zone Habits for a Longer Life

Dana Jones, FNP-C

Aging happens to all of us. As a nurse practitioner specializing in the older adult population, I am fortunate to partner with patients as they traverse the aging process. One thing is certain; the way in which we age is impacted by our genetics, lifestyle, and overall attitude. Enhancing the aging process means being aware of lifestyle habits that promote vitality and health. It’s never too late to start! Interesting research over the last 20 years has explored the habits of cultures with longevity and good health called the Blue Zones, with the goal to implement these habits elsewhere.

In 2004, explorer and journalist Dan Buettner worked with National Geographic and a team of scientists and demographers to research regions around the world where people live to ripe old ages with good health and a high quality of life. The team analyzed data and talked to numerous centarians (people age 100 or more) in different regions. The researchers chose five areas that stood out as hot spots, named the Blue Zones, where these “pro-agers” live very long, full lives with much lower rates of chronic diseases including cancer, dementia, and cardiovascular disease.  The five Blue Zone areas are:

Okinawa, Japan – Females over age 70 are the longest-lived population in the world

Sardinia, Italy – Known for the highest concentration of men who live to 100

Ikaria, Greece – A Greek island with the lowest rate of dementia

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica – This area has the second highest rate of centarians

Loma Linda, California – With a high population of Seventh Day Adventists, they live 10 years longer than others in North America

The researchers found nine common healthy lifestyle traits, called the Power 9, shared by each community, with each offering their own unique interpretation of similar healthy traditions. Four out of five of these communities have been around for centuries and healthy traditions are built into the culture, making it easier to stay healthy. As you read, think about what you might already be doing and slowly implement other changes from the Power 9 to improve your quality  and length of life.

  1. Move naturally. Blue Zone communities don’t go to the gym or run marathons. Instead, they naturally get up every 20 minutes or so, doing things they enjoy. Movement such as household chores, going for a walk, gardening, or taking the stairs all count toward activity. Walking is something all Blue Zones have in common, and is easy for most people to incorporate whether walking the dog, visiting a friend, or even walking around in the house. Even if you have physical challenges, talk to your health care provider about what type of movement you can do.
  2. Eat less meat and more plants. Blue Zone communities do not eat much meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or cheese, typically consuming a palm-size serving of meat once a week. A primarily plant-based diet or “plant slant” tradition with beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits make up the bulk of Blue Zone meals and snacks. Weaning down on animal protein and increasing plants helps decrease the risk of many types of diseases including heart disease and cancer. Protein can still be found in plant foods like lentils, tofu, chickpeas, and black beans.
  3. Eat to 80% full. Another mindset of Blue Zone communities is routinely eating until they are about 80% full, with a larger breakfast and lunch and smaller supper in the late afternoon or early evening. They may feast or celebrate with larger meals for holidays or special occasions. This strategy can help people in the U.S. lose and manage weight long-term.
  1. Know your Having a purpose is linked with longevity and health and gives meaning and direction to life. Whether the purpose is to help or inspire others, be there for loved ones, fight a social cause, travel, build a business, take care of your health, or support the community, taking time to figure out your life’s purpose is a primary aspect of overall health.
  2. Develop healthy routines to shed stress. We all have stress in our lives, but Blue Zone communities have daily routines to shed stress including prayer, honoring ancestors, and napping. Yoga, meditations, breathing exercises, physical activity, reading, or hobbies are other ways people decrease stress. Finding a routine that works for you is important to decompress, slow down, and learn healthy ways to manage stress.
  3. Find supportive The Blue Zones teach us the importance of a healthy social group to increase overall health. Assess who you hang out with and make sure your friends promote positive habits. It’s also important to have some friends to call if you’re having a bad day.
  4. Develop a sense of belonging. Most people in the Blue Zones belong to a faith-based or civic-based community. For those that feel lonely, finding a church, community center, volunteering, or attending classes can help build new friendships. Connections with others are an important way to increase overall mental and physical health.
  5. Make family a priority. Blue Zone communities put family first, including spouses, elders, and children. Taking care of loved ones and keeping them close promotes overall health and family community. Even if you don’t have a close family, developing friendships with peers as well as older and younger people helps create the sense of family.
  6. Wine at 5. Four out of five Blue Zones drink a glass or two of wine a day with friends and with a meal for social connection and to shed stress. Some studies show one glass a day for women or two for men can be beneficial for overall health, but be sure to consult with your health care provider before implementing this, and be sure to refrain if you have a history of subtance use disorder.

Most research shows adopting Blue Zone habits can add up to 10 years to your life expectancy. There is an abundance of information to explore at and in books and other outlets. To improve your own health, assess how you do on the Power 9 habits and figure out what you want to work on. Finding your life’s purpose, spiritual fulfillment, a new friend group, eating more plants, or moving more can help improve both physical and mental health. By setting small sustainable goals over time, these habits can become lifestyle changes for a fuller and longer life!



HopeHealth educates its patients on the importance of having a health care home. As a primary care facility, HopeHealth’s medical team works to prevent and detect illness and the early onset of disease, provide routine physical examinations and promote overall healthy lifestyles.

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