On Becoming a Blue Zone
Meena Malhotra, M.D.
Blue Zones are regions of the world thought to have a higher than usual number of people live much longer than average, with a majority of the population reaching the age of 100 without health problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia or diabetes. The five recognized blue zones are Okinawa, in Japan; Ikaria, in Greece; Sardinia, in Italy; Nicoya, in Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, in California.
The common thread that ties these diverse regions together is a diet rich in vegetables and healthy fats with smaller amounts of dairy and meat products. There are practically no processed foods in their diets. Restorative sleep and short naps fuel them with positive energy. Moderate consumption of alcohol as wine also helps lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. Physical activity is practiced as activities of pleasure in their daily life such as planting a garden, using hand tools for housekeeping and walking in their communities.
When this lifestyle is paired with long-lasting social networks and purpose, the result is longevity with a greater quality of life. As the awareness of Blue Zones increases, our health not only improves at an individual level, but at the level of family, community and the ecosystem.
Interpersonal relationships are another key factor to progress our community toward becoming a Blue Zone. In today’s heavily stressful lifestyles, we can modify our emotions of happiness and compassion to improve our levels of resilience. The brain is plastic, and thus can be modified through training. Mindfulness is a powerful modulator of brain plasticity, which when practiced regularly, can enhance attention control, and regulate emotion and self-awareness, as well as improve cognitive control.
Environmental risk factors play a key role in accelerating disease onset and progression, in addition to lifestyle and genetics. A healthy, balanced ecosystem is a state of stability where species coexist within their environment. Ecological balance is the key to turn our community into a Blue Zone. That means taking care of our prairies and lakes, and living in harmony with the environment.Meena Malhotra, M.D., is the medical director and owner of Heal n Cure, located at 2420 Ravine Way, Ste. 400, in Glenview. To get started with a personalized detox plan, call 847-686-4444 or visit HealNCure.com.