The Blue Zones: Book Review

The Blue Zones: Tips for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

Book Review of The Blue Zones by Dan BuettnerThis past weekend I finished up The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. I was first introduced to this book by a commenter, Chris Kaiser, on this very blog back in June. After a little Googling I found this to be one of the most current books on longevity on the market today.

Buettner, writing for National Geographic, authored a cover story in 2005 titled Secrets of Living Longer. It was a well regarded article and a finalist for the National Magazine Award. Expanding on this article, Buettner authored The Blue Zones which identified four specific areas of the world where the population lives noticeably longer, healthier lives. The areas identified are micro-populations, small areas of larger geographic regions. They include Loma Linda, CA, Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, and Nicoya, Costa Rica.

Because these areas are so case specific and standouts when compared even to their greater geographic regions: California, Japan, Italy, and Costa Rica, Buettner and his team traveled to the regions with demographers, translators, and historians to identify what factors make these smaller populations different and why they so naturally seem to live longer healthier lives.

The Blue Zones is more of a story than a how-to guide. It is more of a dialogue between persons rather than the monologue of a specialist. Buettner packs this book with mostly stories from centenarians that he and his colleagues met in their travels. In each location they found an extraordinarily high percentage of the population over the age of 100 and found as many of these centenarians to interview as possible. Many of his interviews did not even seem to be interviews at all as Buettner simply sat in the presence of village elders and simply watched them, their families, and friends interact with one another. Many of the stories were quite fascinating.

The Blue Zone's Basic Conclusions

Through the course of Buettner’s travels he and his team begin formulating observations which point to causes of longevity and these summarizations are found in The Blue Zones at the end of each section. As you read you will slowly notice parallels between the four zones despite their seemingly very different origins.
  • Most notably is the fact that all four zones share an overwhelming sense of spirituality though not in the same religion.
  • In each region the elders feel they have a deep purpose in life specifically as an elder. They still provide and they care for others.
  • Each of the four regions share a strong sense of familial closeness. Elders are deeply connected to the family and live with the younger generations. Love and support flow upward and downward through the generations of family members in a way that is not always the case in other parts of the world and especially in America.
  • Each group seems to have experienced a diet mostly vegetarian over a lifespan though not completely. They all eat low calories and three of the four lived generally in poverty forcing their reduction in calorie consumption.
  • All four regions value, enjoy, and participate in hard (often physical) labor for most of their lives, even into old age.
  • Lastly, each group of people generally had access to a level of healthcare capable enough to take care of basic needs, diseases, and infections. Generally diet and activity levels were associated with the avoidance of more modern ailments and longevity associated diseases.

My Thoughts on The Blue Zones

As I read this book I first noticed how surprised I was to find so much story telling versus scientific ramblings. At first I was even discouraged because I was looking for these “secrets” from the elders to be backed up by science but after a while I began to enjoy the book for what it was, a story of long lived peoples and how they came to their place in life. A lot of the book speaks in generalities and a lot of the longevity is due to simple luck of the draw as none of these people likely practice perfect laboratory anti-aging practices but that’s the point. This is the story about how normal people live extraordinary lives and enjoy them into their 11th decade of life. They all are happy and they all find life to be a joy. The stories make you sit back and think about your own life and identify the mentality you bring towards life, what you find to be joyful, and what you find to be purposeful.

If you read this book, which I recommend as it is a joy to read and not too long to lose your attention, I recommend diving in with the understanding that this is not a how-to book, it is a story of amazing people that happened to grow up in the perfect setting for longevity and happiness. Enjoy.

As always for my reviews let me encourage you to pick up a copy of The Blue Zones through your local bookstore, Amazon, or at you local library. The library is an underused resource that most of us have access to so please do not feel obligated to make use of my affiliate links in this post. Just come back after reading this book. :)

This review of The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner is part of my book review series on the most popular longevity books on bookshelves today. Click through for the whole list of books on longevity or take a look at my review of Longevity Made Simple, my most review on a book based more on clinical research rather than word of mouth and observation.

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