Like most parents, my mother is constantly reminding me to pick up something to read. Recently, I discovered one of my mom’s old National Geographic magazines. It was a special feature about places in the world called “Blue Zones.” The author, Dan Buettner, has traveled the world for the past 15 years in search of the healthiest people. The term refers to geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else. Blue Zones have high concentrations of 100-year-olds along with clusters of people who have grown old without diseases like heart problems, obesity, cancer or diabetes.
I learned there are 5 main Blue Zones. They include: Ikaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), Ogliastra Region (Sardinia, Italy), Loma Linda (California), and Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica). Mr. Buettner mentioned that 80 percent of our longevity is due to lifestyle choices, while 20 percent is due to our genetic makeup. I found that so interesting because commercials always make me think that heredity impacts my health the most.
While reading the articles, I found a lot of similarities between what has changed about my lifestyle during COVID-19 and people in the Blue Zones. For example, in the morning, Ikarians wake up naturally and eat breakfast slowly. I, too, no longer wake up to an alarm and enjoy not rushing my meals because we might be late for school. All of our meals have slowed down, and my family started taking more time to cook and eat together every day. I learned that in the Blue Zone people look at meal times as a “time for connection with others, being with family and a time for gratitude for all of the good things in their lives.”
During this quarantine I also learned how much the American diet destroys people and how we should make more of an effort to eat a plant based diet, myself included. Buettner says “People should eat to live, they don’t live to eat.” Because of this, I have started trying different foods and vegetables which I used to be disgusted by. (But I still hate Brussel sprouts.) One goal I have for this summer is to try and build a garden.
What I found most interesting, though, was that all the people who live in these places have a purpose for getting up in the morning besides their career. They have something to live for beyond work. I never really considered this thought before. I feel a lot of people just wake up to wake up and do things during our day that we do not even enjoy doing. Life often seems like a cycle, and we are creatures of habit, so we think “why should we stop now” if this is the way it has always been done. However, in the Blue Zones people invest in family, keep their minds engaged, participate in building their community, and because of this, they do not feel worthless.
One fact the magazine also included was about choosing a place to live. Mr. Buettner said people who live near water—whether it’s a lake or river or an ocean—are about 10 percent more likely to be happy than people who don’t. This explains why I’m often the happiest when we are at the beach or on the river. He also said having a front porch is better than a back deck because the happiest people are socializing six to seven hours a day. And when you sit on a porch, more people stop to visit you.
So next time I decide to pick up a Little Debbie Oatmeal Pie, I will remember a little less Debbie equals a little more life.
Wisnosky is a freshman at TAHS, a member of the field hockey team, softball team, and the Class of 2023 Steering Committee.
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