Why people here live forever

Blue Zones are home to the world's longest-living people. Learn from them, then live like them.

We’re not denying the seductive promise of eternal youth. But in our relentless pursuit of time-erasing solutions, we may all be asking the wrong question from the start. Instead of trying to stay young forever, shouldn’t we be wondering how to age better than ever before?

That’s what National Geographic writer Dan Buettner set out to discover in his groundbreaking study on the world’s Blue Zones — geographical pockets where citizens are up to 10 times more likely to live to be 100 than in the United States. Through his books, articles, and viral TED talk, he’s captivated wellness-seekers with decade-long research about long-living, cancer- and depression-averse communities from Loma Linda, California to Okinawa, Japan.

What the Blue Zones and Buettner’s work teach us is that there’s no silver bullet or magic pill to stave off aging. Instead, it’s a combination of factors: drastically reducing stress, eating antioxidant-rich whole foods, living life with a sense of purpose, and enjoying strong family and community ties chief among them. Not surprisingly, ultra-accelerated modern life with its endless staring at computer screens and always-on workweek aren’t doing us any favors.

The good news is there’s plenty to be learned from the garden-obsessed Okinawans and shepherds of Sardinia. Chill out a little. Savor that glass of red wine. Take more naps. Make hosting friends part of your family’s traditions. Consider making your next vacation a pilgrimage to one of the four most picturesque Blue Zones across the globe. You'll find a mini travel guide in the slideshow above. And in the meantime, bring the Blue Zone to you by putting into practice the habits listed here:

1. Eat a Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish.

2. Bulk up on antioxidants, especially from red wine, high-quality tea, and leafy greens.

3. Get at least eight hours of sleep every night.

4. Stay away from processed foods.

5. Cultivate family and a strong sense of community.

6. Go easy on dairy products.

7. Keep an active sex life into old age.

8. Walk, take the stairs, climb hills: move constantly, not just during “workouts.”

9. Find a stress-management strategy, whether it’s through spirituality, meditation, or lots of naps.

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  • Sardinia, Italy

    Sardinia, Italy

    A rugged island just south of Corsica, Sardinia mixes glamorous, jet-set-friendly beaches with a quiet, untouched interior landscape. It’s also home to the longest-living men in the world, who spend most of their time outside or throwing back red wine with family and friends.

    When to go: May-July 

    Where to stay: Petra Segreta Resort, a wellness haven with its secluded location, Turkish bath, Roman sauna, and treatment rooms in natural grottoes.

    What to eat: The antioxidant-rich local red wine, fava beans, and goat’s milk cheeses. 

    What to do: Wind- and kite-surf in crystal-clear waters, kayak through rocky coves, and mountain bike across the island’s hilly interior.

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  • Ikaria, Greece

    Ikaria, Greece

    This quiet, picturesque, 99-square-mile locale 30 miles off the coast of Turkey was recently called “the island where people forget to die” by the New York Times. Its citizens are three times more likely to reach the age of 90 than U.S. citizens and are far less likely to lose mental acuity as they age.

    When to go: July and August 

    Where to stay: Thea’s Inn, a culinary gem run by an organic farmer and his wife, who spent years in the U.S.

    What to eat: Biodynamic wine, goat’s milk ice cream, and the local honey, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. 

    What to do: Hike along the coast, soak in ancient thermal hot springs, visit the nudist beach, and take plenty of naps (Ikarians rarely stick to schedules).

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  • Okinawa, Japan

    Okinawa, Japan

    This palm tree-studded subtropical archipelago 360 miles off the coast of Japan is blessed with temperate weather and fertile soil, which makes its citizens dedicated gardeners. Go for the beaches, the mellow vibe, and the antioxidant-rich herbs and vegetables.

    When to go: March-April, October-November

    Where to stay: The recently opened Ritz Carlton Okinawa, one of the area’s first luxury hotels. 

    What to eat: Miso soup, fresh fish, and the local turmeric tea.

    What to do: Kayak through virgin jungles and mangrove forests and scuba dive by pristine reefs.

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  • Nicoya, Costa Rica

    Nicoya, Costa Rica

    Citizens of this tropical peninsula may have literally found the fountain of youth: Their extraordinary longevity is attributed in part to naturally calcium- and magnesium-rich water. Their idyllic locale, with its sun-drenched beaches and copious nature reserves, doesn’t hurt either.

    When to go: October-May 

    Where to stay: The Harmony Hotel, an elegant eco-resort located a short walk from one of the world’s best surfing spots.

    What to eat: Local fruits such as the maroñon, a local citrus fruit loaded with Vitamin C, and the anona, an antioxidant-rich member of the pear family. 

    What to do: Soak up life-extending Vitamin D (safely) with surfing, hiking, and morning yoga on the beach.

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