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Live to 100 in Italy: Blue Zones Pt. 1/4

Your favourite colour might not be blue, but if you had to pick a “zone” to live in, it would undoubtedly be a blue one. Living to 100 is a pipedream for many (a healthy 100 that is), but in some areas of the world, it’s less a dream and more a reality.

Pushed to the mainstream by New York Times bestselling author and National Geographic fellow Dan Buetter, ‘blue zone’ has quickly become a term synonymous with locations where people live significantly healthier and longer lives.

‘A knet’annos’ – a common Sardinian toast meaning ‘100 years of health & life’

The Freedom Blog will embark on 4 part blog series, in which we explore 3 remarkable blue zones and then neatly tie them together to help you live a healthier and longer life.

Our ‘Blue Zone‘ series:

  • Part 1. Mountain villages of Sardinia, Italy (today’s article)
  • Part 2. Pacific Island of Okinawa, Japan
  • Part 3. The Adventists of Loma Linda, California
  • Part 4. How you can live to 100. What do they all have in common?

Always wanted to visit Italy? Now you can say it’s for Health

You’ve been looking for an excuse to splurge on a Mediterranean cruise (do you really need an excuse?), and now you have it – red wine, pecorino cheese and long living.

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the Italian islands not being kicked by the little boot (that’s Sicily). Over 1,149 miles of coastline and 13.6% mountainous, Sardinian’s have a common toast – a knet’annos – which roughly translates as “100 years of health and life” – it’s not just a toast here, it’s a reality.

In the U.S., the ratio of female to male centenarians is approximately 4 to 1. In the temperate mountain villages of Sardinia, that ratio is an even 1 to 1. Further, in the Blue Zone, demographers found that “91 of the 17,865 people born between 1880 and 1900 have lived to their hundredth birthday.” That’s an incredible rate of 509 in 100,000. Compare that to the U.S. 2010 Census, the current rate of centenarians in the U.S. is 17.3 per 100,000. Something’s in the Sardinian water or should we say the wine.

Because you need another reason to drink Red Wine

It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard that red wine (in moderation) is not only a good time but a healthy choice. Countless studies have praised the antioxidants found prevalent in red vino. Let’s put on our lab coat for a moment. Heart disease is one of the major killers in the developed world and some studies have found that a glass of wine can prevent arterial clogging. Essentially, some researchers suggest that moderate red wine use helps keep your arteries clean.

Though it’s still up for discussion if, and what properties of, red wine help your heart, Sardinians enjoy a glass of red wine with their meal and let’s be honest, we don’t have to twist your arm too hard.

Why so healthy, Sardinia?

  1. Active Lifestyle. The temperate climate of the Sardinia mountains lends well to their active way of life. A typical day might include shepherding your flock of sheep a few miles for pasture, delivering a calf, cutting wood, building a stone wall. No pumping weights or gruelling Crossfit routines, just a healthy, constructive, active lifestyle. So cut up that gym membership (do you really go anyway?) and get active around the house or neighbourhood.
  2. Shared Burdens. A common stereotype in America (it is changing) is that the man of the household takes care of the finances. That’s simply not the case in Sardinia. Women play an integral role in managing the household, which includes taking care of the finances. Raising a family is a real partnership, with household burdens shared. If you’ve ever lived on a farm or watched ‘Little House on the Prarie,’ you’d know that living off the land requires teamwork. Working as a team means more social interactions and reinforcing one another’s active lifestyles.
  3. Good Genes. We won’t blame you if you didn’t get this one right. But the good news is researchers believe only 20 -30% of one’s lifespan is dependent on genetics, the rest is down to environmental factors. However, of the 20-30% factor that genetics play, Sardinians’ are keeping the longevity gene in Sardinia. It’s estimated that 8 in 10 Sardinians are direct descendants of original Sardinians.
  4. Better Food. When you live off the land, your food is innately cleaner and more nutritious. Avoiding the processed, genetically-modified, pesticide-soaked groceries you find in most U.S. pantries, has no doubt added years of health to the Sardinian population. This has become even more evident in recent years, as studies have shown upward obesity trends for Sardinian adolescents living in urban areas.
  5. Respect your Elders. An active lifestyle, good genes, and even better food lends well to the incredible mobility of Sardinian seniors and the lack of major health ailments that plague the developed world. You’d be hard pressed to find a Sardinian elder that requires the amenities of a retirement home. Even if you did, retirement homes are seldom considered, as elders command too much respect. To put your loved one in an assisted living facility would be seen as dishonourable. Family ties are strong, and the respect that is shown towards the wisdom of the elderly gives them purpose and a sense of support.

There you have it! Going to Italy is not a vacation, it’s a health retreat. If you enjoyed this article, just wait for part 2 of our series when we explore the island of Okinawa, Japan. What are your tips for a long and healthy life? Please share! As always, it was a pleasure!

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Live to 100 in Italy: Blue Zones Pt. 1/4

by Ryan Holt time to read: 4 min
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