I began reading this book, The Blue Zones Second Edition 9 Lessons For Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest by Dan Buettner. It is a fascinating read and I have a hard time putting it down. There are five Blue Zones (the name comes from these five longevity zones being circled in blue ink on a map during the research of these areas.)
Over the next five weeks I would like to use the book like a textbook and cover one zone a week, sharing with you how these people live, eat, and handle stress. I think this is a great resource for parents and grandparents who want to maintain their health so they can look after children and grandchildren, share wisdom, and keep up with the younger generations as long as possible. It will also help you figure out healthy ways to incorporate into your lifestyle as there are recurring themes throughout the Blue Zones.
This week I will cover the zone of—
This island is located 120 miles west of mainland, Italy. The people date back to the time of Christ. They lived as hunter-gatherers and later shepherds. In fact the book tells us that the lifestyle of these people has not changed much at all since the time of Christ. They have maintained economic isolation, traditional social values, respect for elders, and the importance of family clans.
Some genetic studies done on them showed the centenarians had a higher rate of smaller than normal red blood cells, which provides a resistance to malaria and a lesser chance of developing blood clots. (p.35)
The centenarians are treated like celebrities. They make calendars with the “Centenarian of the Month” and post them on tavern walls. (p.40)
Most of these men and women spend their days between their bed and a favorite chair, and meal times with family. They might stroll to meet a friend. They enjoy daily seasonal routines. They raised families who now care for them. (p.40)
An exception was Giuseppe Mura. At 102 years of age, he had a biting sense of humor and worked his entire life, 16 hours a day, tilling the soil or following his sheep. He would take a nap after lunch, visit with friends, then return to the fields until dark.
He never helped with the raising of his eight children. The care of the house and children was left to his wife. His diet consisted of fava beans, pecorino cheese, bread, and meat when he could afford it. His daughter estimates he drank a liter of Sardinian wine every day and more during festivals.
He had a half brother and during the writing of the book it is recorded that the whole village celebrated when both of them turned 100 two years prior. (p.43)
To find out more about the lifestyle of these people the author followed a 75-year-old shepherd who tended his own sheep, made his own wine, and lived traditionally. (p. 45)
Their first meeting with Tonino found him slaughtering a cow at 9:45 a.m. while his three son-in-laws helped and his daughter held his five-month-old grandson and watched. Tonino had been up since 4 a.m., pastured his sheep, cut wood, trimmed olive trees, fed his cows and was now working on the cow. (p. 46)
The family invited the author and his crew into a low-ceilinged kitchen, served them cookies made with raisins, almonds, and jam. The room was heated by a wood burning stove. His wife offered the visitors wine.
His wife handled the house, children, and finances. She said, “He works, I worry.” (pp.47-48)
Their diet followed the same regime as they had since the 1940s which was very simple and lean, even by Mediterranean standards. Bread is their main food. Other foods included cheese, onion, fennel, ravanelli, and vegetable soup. In most areas families eat meat only once a week.
Goat’s milk and mastic oil play a large part in many diets and thought to provide longevity. (p.49)
Along with Tonino, people here possess a reverence for family— which becomes their “purpose in life.” (p.51)
In Sardinia the men have a temperament that helps relieve stress. They are grumpy and likable at the same time and often joke at the expense of others. They are strong willed, have high self-esteem, and are stubborn. (p.54)
Another man that was interviewed “drank goat’s milk for breakfast, walked at least six miles a day, and loved to work.” p.57)
Summing it all up
The benefits of living a shepherd’s lifestyle:
- Walking five or more miles a day
- Low stress in the fields
- A lean, mostly plant-based diet with an emphasis on beans, whole wheat, and garden vegetables
- Goat’s milk
- Mastic oil
- A hardship-tempered sense of humor helps shed stress and diffuse feuds
- A protective family oriented environment (pp.60-61)
The women take care of the home, care for children, mange the finances and worry about their husband’s safety. Unlike most Mediterranean cultures, they wear the pants in the marriage and bare the highest stress load, enabling their husbands to be the ones who live longer. (p.60)
Lessons for us
- Eat a lean, plant-based diet with a little meat
- Put family first
- Drink goat’s milk
- Celebrate elders
- Take a walk
- Drink wine (unless you don’t – maybe change to grape juice)
- Laugh with friends (p.62-63)
Is there anything from the Sardinian lifestyle you would like to include in what you do daily? If so, please comment below.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Next week we will look at the lifestyles of Okinawa.