How to live longer: lessons from Blue Zones

Blue Zones have more people who live past 100 years old. So, is there a secret to living longer?

Here at Medichecks, we aren't just interested in life expectancy. Our goal is to help people with healthy ageing - to build healthy lifestyles and live longer in good health.

The Blue Zones are particularly interesting because these people aren't necessarily trying to live for longer. Their age and wellbeing appear to be a positive by-product of their lifestyle.

Here’s our summary of what you can learn from the Blue Zones to improve your health and quality of life.

What are Blue Zones?


Blue Zones are pockets of the world that have more centenarians (people living past 100) by population.

The five Blue Zones are:

  1. Ikaria, Greece
  2. Loma Linda, California
  3. Nicoya, Costa Rica
  4. Okinawa, Japan
  5. Sardinia, Italy

Dan Buettner founded and studied the Blue Zones. From his observations, Dan created nine principles for longevity. The Power 9 principles cover movement, having the right outlook, eating well, and connections.


How to live longer


Living a healthy life lowers your risk of chronic disease but doesn't guarantee you won't get sick. People in Blue Zones lead healthy lives, without trying - really. They don't have gym memberships, swear by a multivitamin, or quote the latest health fad. Their lives have purpose and movement built naturally into them.

Five lifestyle habits of people living longer to build into your life:

  1. Identify your purpose.
  2. Surround yourself with people who share your goals.
  3. Build movement into your daily life.
  4. De-stress every day.
  5. Eat nutrient-dense foods.


1. Identify your purpose


They say knowing your sense of purpose adds seven years to your life. So how do you identify your purpose?

Yogis call it dharma and Okinawans call it ikigai - meaning why I wake up in the morning. Purpose can involve your family, your community, or a cause. It could be to teach, fight for a cause, build a business, or volunteer. Your purpose is what makes you come alive and is unique.

Studies show that having a purpose is good for your mental and physical health [1].

Purpose can benefit your health by lowering levels of:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Risk of cardiovascular and Alzheimer's disease

Tips to identify your purpose:

  • Who do you admire?
  • What do you care about the most?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Now, imagine your best possible self, what do they look like - how do you get there?


2. Surround yourself with people who share your goals


The people you interact with regularly influence your habits - and this could be for better or for worse.

Do your friends, family, and colleagues encourage you when you choose a healthy meal over unhealthy eating habits? Is it the norm to play sport together or drink to excess at the weekend? Is burnout or rest more prized?

Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and loneliness are contagious[2]. Surround yourself with the groups and people who are living the habits that you want in your life. They'll likely rub off on you anyway.

How to live longer: Build movement into your daily life


3. Build movement into your daily life


The centenaries in Blue Zones don’t have expensive gym memberships. They aren’t using state-of-the-art equipment or pumping iron for hours of the day. The people in these communities get their regular physical activity through walking, making their bread, and farming.

It isn't that planned exercise is bad. Some communities like the Seventh-Day Adventists build their community around sports clubs and exercise groups. This has a double benefit; it keeps them active and is also a social event. The main point is that they enjoy it, so they're able to keep it up.


4. De-stress every day


Stress is an inevitable part of life. Short-term, it can even be helpful. But if that stress continues for days, weeks, or months on end then it can be damaging to our health.

Centenarians living in the Blue Zones have mastered the art of de-stressing. They still experience stress, but they will also have a siesta, go to happy hour, or spend time praying.

Find activities that can help you to manage your stress. It might be building in a daily walk or a weekly phone catch-up with your friend.

Ideas to relieve stress:

  • Reset your mind - Journal before you go to bed.
  • Socialise - Make time to see loved ones.
  • Exercise - Go for a walk, run, cycle or the gym.
  • Make time for yourself - Have a bath, cook your favourite meal, read, paint, and get out in the garden.

A nice way to think about this could be how you unwind after the day. For most of us, this probably involves some sort of technology. But what if we think about the night-time routines we set for our children? They usually involve wind-down activities, reading books, having a bath, and singing songs.

Think of it like your campfire activities. When we're outside with nature, we naturally want to sit around the fire and share stories. Can you bring this feeling of winding down, reflecting, and resetting to your evening routine?


5. Enrich your diet with nutrient-dense foods


People living in the Blue Zones eat more nuts, legumes, and olive oil than we do. All kinds of leafy greens feature, from dandelion greens to spinach and Swiss chard. The Okinawan diet focuses on staples like sweet potatoes and Shiitake mushrooms.

Nutrients are important for your overall health and help your body to function at its best. Healthy food helps your immune system, gives you energy, and helps your body heal and recover.

The Mediterranean diet is a good example of this and is full of whole foods, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.

The Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, such as:

  • Lowering your risk of heart disease.
  • Helping to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Helping to reduce your blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels.

How to live longer: eat nutrient-dense food

Another common approach they have to food is not eating in excess. The Okinawans have a mantra that they say before each meal - hara hachi bu. It reminds people only to eat until they're 80 per cent full. The extra 20 per cent could be the difference between losing and gaining weight.

This demonstrates that it isn’t just what you eat that’s important, it’s also when you eat and how much. With nutrient-dense foods, you're getting more health benefits for the quantity you're eating.


Can my environment affect how long I live?


Someone's lifestyle and environment dictate around 80 per cent of how long they live. The other 20 per cent is down to genes. But that’s still a major proportion that you can influence [3].

Taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing is undoubtedly important for your long-term health. And the people and environment around you can majorly influence your habits.


How can a blood test help my long-term health?


A blood test can help you to understand your risk factors for certain diseases. Once you identify your risks, you can make healthy changes to reduce your risk of death from them, which may improve your chances of living a longer life.

Our Optimal Health Blood Test assesses your risk of lifestyle-related diseases by checking advanced markers for cardiovascular, metabolic, and hormonal health. You can then make healthy changes to improve your chances of a longer life and healthy ageing.






  1. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (2020). Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines. PubMed Central, 7494628.
  2. VanderWeele, T. J. (2011). Sensitivity analysis for contagion effects in social networks. Sociological Methods & Research, 40(2), 240-255. PMID: 25580037; PMCID: PMC4288024
  3. National Research Council (US) Committee on the National Nanotechnology Initiative. (2011). Vision for Nanotechnology R&D in the Next Decade. National Academies Press.

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