Secrets to Nicoyan Long Life
In 2005, Dan Buettner, a journalist working for National Geographic wrote a piece entitled “The secrets of a long life.” In the article Buettner idemtified 5 geographic locations where people live statistically longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Icaria (Greece); the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, and finally, right here in Guanacaste, more specifically the Nicoya peninsula. Buettners studies concluded the Nicoya Peninsula boasts the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest convergence of male centenarians. So what’s the secret to this longevity? More importantly, what lifestyle tips and tricks can residents of Nosara apply to their own lives in order to bring about the physocal and emotional conditions necessary to acheive this?
The components that Buettner and his team of researchers found were similar among both the Nicoya centenarians, and equally common in the other locations identified as Blue Zones. The following information come from Buettners first hand observations of lifestyle characteristics common to Blue Zones.
Have a “Plan de Vida”
The translation of this phrase, at its most basic, is as simple as just having a reason to live. It could be thought of as ones motivation to get out of bed in the morning, and go about ones day with enthusiasm and gusto. This “plan de vida” is argued to foster a positive outlook among elders, keep them active, make them feel needed and able to contribute, and imbue them with an overall increased sense of mening and purpose. Often they say, this enthusiasm is generated by spending time among ones family.
Drink hard water
According to Buettner, and as evidenced by mutliple independent studies, Nicoyan water has the country’s highest calcium content. This helps explain why consequently, rates of heart disease are weak bone density are so low. The medical community widely agrees that the high amounts of calcium and magnesium so abundant in Nicoyan water are a crucial prerequisite to ongoing health.
Keep it in the family
Nicoyans are famed for their focus on family life, which includes the active participation of all generations, young and old, in everything from tasks and chores, to celebrations. Older Nicoyans often tend to live with family with whom they can listen, laugh, tell stories, and be around their energetic children and grandchildren. This provides further support and an enhanced sense of belonging. Similarly, its been shown that older Nicoyans greatly value social networks outside of their family, and strive to maintain social networks and their own active participation in the community. Nicoyan centenarians enjoy frequent visits from neighbors. They know how to listen, laugh, and appreciate what they have.
Eat light and eat well
Fruit and vegetables constitute the lions share of the Nicoyan diet, in fact many commentators have labeled their largely plant based diet as ‘semi-vegetarianism.’ Interestingly, many Blue Zone residents around the world eat a primarily plant-based diet with a high focus on legumes (all kinds of beans, peas and lentils). In Nicoya the diet also consists of rich, colorful fruits such as marañon, the red-orange cashew tree fruit that has more vitamin C than oranges, and noni, a pear-like fruit rich in antioxidants. Nicoyans eat their biggest meal during the day and their smallest meal at night.
Keep up the physical activity
Whether it be chopping wood in the yard or engaging in a daily walk around the neighborhood Nicoyan centenarians insist that physical activity is a crucial component of enjoying their golden years to the maximum. That exercise is beneficial is of course common knowledge regardless of age, gender or anything else. However, the trick of being able to maintain ones work ethic into old age is, they say, to engage in the type of exercise you either enjoy, helps others, or ideally both.
Get some sensible sun
It’s no accident that all of the Blue Zones identified in Buettners book happen to be in locations that enjoy regular sunshine on a daily basis. For decades, doctors have known that vitamin D deficiency is the precursor to osteoporosis, heart disease and a whole range of other ailments. Consequently, they also reccomend a daily dose of sun exposure, even if its as little as 10-15 minutes. Nicoyans are blessed to live in an area where sunshine is in abundance, thus keeping them strong, healthy and highly functional.
Many Nicoyans, particularly those of older generations strongly believe that a faith in God, religion, or spirituality do wonders to help relieve stress and anxiety. Almost all of the centenarians interviewed by Buettner belonged to some kind of faith-based community.