Looking to the Blue Zones
by Dr. Melissa Miskell
There’s been recent social media and forum coverage of areas of the world where people tend to live longer, healthier lives. Called Blue Zones, the areas that have been studied most recently include the islands of Okinawa off the coast of Japan and Sardinia off Italy’s coast, and Loma Linda, California, with a sizable population of Seventh-Day Adventists.
How do the people who live in these areas stay so healthy and live so long? Here are several strategies you can incorporate into your daily life that might help you follow in their footsteps.
• Exercise your body. Sitting is the new smoking. Working on computers or having other sedentary jobs, it’s more difficult to keep excess weight at bay. Moving around more is also a great anti-aging strategy. In addition to better blood flow, better health, and better range of motion, regular exercise can help maintain your sense of balance and avoid falls, which often lead to broken hips and other disabilities later in life. Fit in a thirty-to-sixty minute walk, swim, or run each day. If that isn’t appealing to you, play tennis or soccer with your friends or family, take a yoga, dance, or fitness class. Walk or bike instead of driving whenever possible, and take stairs instead of elevators.
• Exercise your brain. Keep your mind active. There’s even evidence that doing mental exercises like crossword puzzles or taking classes can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. Read fiction, non-fiction, help your kids with homework – take on whatever mental challenges you can think of.
• Exercise your social skills. Something all Blue Zone communities had in common was depending on each other for social support by spending time with family and extended family. If you don’t have a close-knit family or community, start a social hobby, join a church, spiritual community, volunteer group, or Meetup group.
Stress ages you, so develop a meditation or yoga routine to prevent it. Diet and hormones also play a huge role – stick to a non-inflammatory diet, see your healthcare provider regularly, and consider professional hormone testing by a doctor specializing in bio-identical hormones.
Dr. Melissa Miskell is a board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist specializing in bio-identical hormones, anti-aging, and overall wellness at Focus Women’s Health, including nutritional testing and supplements. Call (512) 470-7200 in Austin, (210) 305-5075 in San Antonio, New Braunfels, Boerne.