Blue Zones National Geographic

The Blue Zones: Sardinia’s secrets of long life

An interesting article from National Geographic about the centenaries in Sardinia and the so-called Blue Zones:

Sardinian men
In a cluster of villages in the mountains of central Sardinia, residents enjoy extraordinary longevity, particularly among males. Have genetics and lifestyle played a central role? Dan Buettner traveled to the Italian island to learn what makes Sardinians—especially those in the central region of Barbagia—some of the longest-lived people in the world.

Here, men pass a mural depicting a village procession. By keeping active, many men stay healthy longer. The unique geographic properties of central Sardinia—rocky, sun-beaten terrain not suited for large-scale farming—meant that over the centuries, shepherding offered the best profession. Walking five miles or more a day as Sardinian shepherds do provides cardiovascular benefits and has a positive effect on muscle and bone metabolism without the joint-pounding of running marathons or triathlons.

Mountain Village

The isolation of Sardinia’s mountain villages has helped preserve a traditional Sardinian way of life in which family comes first, food is locally grown, and physical activity is a part of each day—all elements that promote longevity. Isolation also turned native Sardinians into genetic incubators, amplifying certain traits over generations. Their genetic mix may contain a combination that favors longevity.

Pecorino Cheese and Goat’s Milk
Shepherd Giovanni Atzeri pours the milk he has hand-drawn from his sheep. He’ll use the milk to make cheese. Pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep—a traditional part of the Sardinian diet—is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Goat’s milk, another staple, contains components that might help protect against inflammatory diseases of aging such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Traditional Diet
Sardinians share a meal outdoors after a hike. The classic Sardinian diet consists of whole-grain bread (the traditional flatbread is called carta da musica, or sheet music), beans, garden vegetables, fruits, and, in some parts of the island, mastic oil. Meat is largely reserved for Sundays and special occasions. Moderate consumption of locally made Cannonau wine, which has two to three times the level of artery-scrubbing flavonoids as other wines, may help explain the lower levels of stress among men.

Family
Women gather at a church during a festival. In Sardinia, elders are celebrated and family is revered. Grandparents can provide love, child care, financial help, wisdom, and expectations and motivation to perpetuate traditions and push children to succeed in their lives. By turn, elders feel a sense of belonging in their families and communities. They live at home, where they’re likely to receive better care and remain more engaged than they would in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

Laughter
Young and old pass a traditional flatbread bakery in Sardinia. Men in this Blue Zone, famous for their sardonic sense of humor, gather in the street each afternoon to laugh with and at each other. Laughter reduces stress, which can lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Do not miss to read the original article and associated photo gallery from the National Geographic website.

Text adapted from the National Geographic book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

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