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Create Your Own Longevity Village
May 10, 2017
People have been searching for a fountain of youth that could magically restore health and vitality for thousands of years. Since the 5th Century BCE when Herodotus wrote about a fountain with special water that gave the Macrobians their longevity, tales of special youth-giving waters have captured the imaginations and hopes of people around the world. In the United States, most people are familiar with the legend of Ponce de Leon discovering St. Augustine, Florida when he was looking for a fountain of youth in 1513. Today the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine marks the spot where Ponce de Leon supposedly landed.
Create Your Own Longevity Village
The newest fountain of youth attracting health seekers is in a small town in Guangxi, China. Bama County, known for its high number of centenarians for centuries, branded itself as "Longevity Village" a few decades ago and now attracts thousands of visitors hoping to take advantage of its reputed health benefits. Hoping to find health and longevity, more than 20,000 health-seeking tourists a year come to drink and bathe in the river waters, touch large boulders and pose for pictures with centenarians.

Traveling to a fountain of youth in an exotic location sounds exciting, but it isn't necessary to bathe in special water to promote healthy aging. We can create our own longevity village without leaving home by making specific, research-based life-style choices that increase our odds of living longer, healthier lives.

Although not called "fountains of youth", there are areas of the world where people live longer than average. In the Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner identified five areas where people live statistically the longest: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece and the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. Using empirical data and first-hand observation, Buettner identified shared characteristics that contributed to longevity in these areas.

Folks in the Blue Zones don't bathe in special waters, but they do practice life-style habits that are proven life extenders as confirmed by many other research studies. Adopting these habits increases the chances of living longer, healthier lives without traveling to a far-away "fountain of youth."
Using Blue Zones Wisdom to Create Your Own Longevity Village
Move Naturally. It is not necessary to run a marathon, but it is important to move throughout the day. Rather than exercising, Blue Zones inhabitants incorporate movement into their daily activities. Other researchers have identified movement as one of the most important strategies for protecting both the body and the brain, even going as far as calling sitting the new smoking.

Live with Purpose. Having a sense of purpose is what gets us up in the morning and gives life meaning. One study found that people with a sense of purpose had a 15 percent lower risk of death, compared with those who said they were more or less aimless. And it didn't seem to matter when people found their direction. It could be in their 20s, 50s or 70s.

Stay Connected with Friends and Family. In addition to contributing to happiness and quality of life, social connection adds years to our lives. One study of more than 300,000 people spanning about seven years found that being socially connected contributed to a 50% increased chance of longevity.

Manage Stress. Not only does stress harm our sense of well-being, it affects almost every physical process in our bodies according to Dr. Kathleen Hall, director of the Stress Institute. Many of the other Blue Zone habits, including movement, spirituality, diet and social connection, contribute to reducing stress.

Drink in Moderation. Except for the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, people in the Blue Zones drank one or two glasses of wine daily with friends and/or food.

Eat moderately, mostly plants. Blue Zones diets are more like what we ate before the advent of processed, easily-available food. The Okinawans practice "Hara hachi bu", the 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra that reminds them to stop eating when they are 80% full.

Keep the faith. Although the denominations varied, all Blue Zones inhabitants were involved in faith-based communities.

Setting healthy-lifestyle goals is easy; following through is a bit harder. One of the best ways to ensure success is to pay attention to the people in our village. The lifestyle choices of friends and family powerfully influence our own choices. The Framingham Study, an on-going cardio-vascular study now in its third generation of participants, demonstrates that our social networks influence multiple aspects of our lives, including heart health, happiness, smoking, and obesity. For example, participants in the study were fifty-seven percent more likely to gain weight if a friend gained weight, even if the friend lived many miles away. Spending time with others making healthy-aging lifestyle choices increases our chances of making healthy-aging choices.

Seeking a Fountain of Youth in an exotic locale or making life-style choices that lead to health and well-being-the choice is ours. Perhaps the real secret to healthy aging is making choices each day that promote our vitality and well-being. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."

©2010 Ageinista L.L.C