One Health Global Exchange Academy

Healthy Aging in Blue Zones

“How to Live to 100” is the title of one book currently displaying in many Costa Rican bookstores, also found online in Amazon. Written by Dr. Elizabeth Lopez, a Costa Rican social researcher and psychologist, it tells the story of a group of healthy and happy centennials living in the so-called Blue Zone of Costa Rica and further explains their secrets to keep riding a horse after they have turned 100th…!

The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica's Blue Zone has garnered international attention for its remarkable phenomenon of healthy aging. The prevalence of centenarians in this region has intrigued researchers and health experts, offering valuable insights into the secrets of longevity and well-being.

Living among the lush landscapes of Nicoya, the centenarians of this Blue Zone have provided lessons that have reshaped our understanding of healthy aging. One of the standout factors is their strong sense of community and social interconnectedness. Regular interaction with friends and family, a tight-knit support system, and a deep-rooted cultural emphasis on relationships contribute to reduced stress levels and enhanced mental well-being. This highlights the importance of social engagement in maintaining a fulfilling and extended life.

Dietary habits also play a pivotal role in the longevity of Nicoya's residents. Their diet is rich in whole foods such as beans, corn, and tropical fruits, and is notably low in processed foods and refined sugars. This traditional diet is not only nutritionally balanced but also contains nutrients and antioxidants that have been linked to longevity and reduced risk of chronic diseases. Preparing recipes from the Blue Zone of Nicoya is part of our Study Abroad Learning Experience.

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Regular physical activity is another key ingredient in the centenarians' recipe for a healthy life. Their daily routines involve physical work, whether it's tending to crop or engaging in household chores. This consistent movement, rather than strenuous exercise regimes, emphasizes the significance of incorporating natural and enjoyable activities into daily life.

Additionally, the centenarians' connection to their natural environment is a contributing factor. The Nicoya Peninsula's clean air, clean water, and outdoor lifestyle all contribute to overall health. Being surrounded by nature and enjoying the benefits of an unpolluted environment supports cardiovascular health and reduces stress, enhancing the quality of life for these aging individuals.

Lastly, a positive outlook on life and a sense of purpose seem to be common traits among Nicoya's centenarians. A strong cultural value placed on wisdom and experience grants them a sense of pride and purpose, contributing to their mental resilience and overall satisfaction.

The lessons learned from the living centenarians in Costa Rica's Blue Zone offer a holistic approach to healthy aging. Their emphasis on community, balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, connection to nature, and positive mindset collectively form a blueprint for a fulfilling and extended life. By adopting these insights into our own lives, we can aspire to not only live longer but also to live well.

A tour over the Blue Zone of Nicoya and being able to talk to centennials is part of the Study Abroad Learning Experience offered to students visiting Costa Rica.

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