Long Live Our Grandfathers!

oldmansardinia

Where do men live longer? Sardinia, Italy, where there are a higher proportion of people living to be 100 than the average population. In particular, Sardinia has a higher proportion of men who live to be 100 (termed centenarians) as compared to the rest of the world. While in most places only about 12-20% of centenarians are men, in Sardinia, they make up a whopping 1/3 of all centenarians.

Sardinia is a Blue Zone, an area in which a higher proportion of people than average live to be over 100 (called centenarians). In addition to Sardinia, other Blue Zones include Ikaria Greece, Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica, Loma Linda, California and Okinawa Japan.  We will explore each of these Blue Zones separately in our blog over the weeks that follow

Where in the world is it?

Sardinia is an autonomous island of Italy, located in the Mediterranean sea.  It’s population is just over 1.6 million with another 400,000 sheep living on the Island.  Although women live longer all over the island, men have the highest longevity in one particular are- a mountainous inner region called Barbagia. Here, 15 men for every 10,000 people reach age 100. This is compared to only 1.7 persons (both men and women) per 10,000 people who live to reach age 100 in the United States.

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What makes Sardinia a Blue Zone?

Most studies support a combination of good genes, culture, a healthy diet and exercise.  Although genes and culture may be unique for Sardinia, other lifestyle factors we can all modify regardless of where we live. These include having a good diet and more exercise throughout the life span. On average men in the Sardinia Blue Zone walk more (particularly on a sloped terrain for longer distances) as compared to those in non-Blue zones on the island.  Many of these men are shepherds who led a pastoral life for the majority of their lifespan.

According to bluezones.com (a great website highlighting Blue Zones) and Dan Buettner (who has studied Blue zones extensively with National Geographic) recommended lessons to be learned from Blue Zone living are:

  • Exercise: Integrate exercise into every day life-it does not have to be strenuous but can be a part of daily routine, for example doing garden work and walking. In Sardinia, shepherds walk on average 5 miles a day.
  • Have a sense of purpose: A sense that you have a goal in life and something for which to live is key to well-being.
  • Reduce stress: A lower level of stress is important to enhance longevity.
  • Have a healthy diet: This includes vegetables and meat only in moderation. People in Blue Zones who lived longer eat meals to satisfy hunger rather than to achieve fullness. In Sardinia, vegetables are an important part of the diet, supplemented by sheep cheese and goat milk. Meat is eaten only a few times a month and not as a regular part of the diet.
  • Drink wine, but in moderation (particularly Cannanao, a Sardinian red wine rich in anti-oxidants and flavonoids) can be healthy. This means no more than 1-2 glasses a day.
  • Have a sense of belonging: Family and faith are important for well-being and support.    

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The Short and Sweet

Exercise throughout life is a key to longevity.  Healthy diet, wine in moderation and low stress levels are also important

A tavola non si invecchia. 
At the table with good friends and family you do not become old- Old Italian Proverb

Cool TED Talk

 

Useful

Blue Zones: Live Longer Live Better http://www.bluezones.com/

National Geographic. Blue Zones.  http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/happiest-places/blue-zones-sardinia-photos/

 

Research

Buettner D. Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. 2011: National Geographic.

Buettner D. The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who Lived the Longest. 2010: National Geographic,

Buettner D. The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who Who Lived the Longest. 2012: National Geographic.

Passarino G, Calignano C, Vallone A. et al.  Male/female ratio in centenarians: a possible role played by population genetic structure. Exp Gerontol. 2002 Oct-Nov;37:1283-9.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12470842

Pes GM. Tolu F. Poulain M. et al. Lifestyle and nutrition related to male longevity in Sardinia: an ecological study. Nutrition Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. 23:212-9, 2013 Mar.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21958760

 

 

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  1. And the Oscar Goes to....Healthy Tidbits from Countries Featured in the Academy Awards - Whole World for the Whole Person - February 28, 2014

    […] Tidbit: Italy is healthy for a number of reasons.  It has one of the world’s Blue Zones in the Island of Sardinia.  Italians are also known for their great Mediterranean diet, which […]

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