The Secret of Costa Rica’s Blue Zone

The Secret of Costa Rica’s Blue Zone

The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica is our favorite of the five Blue Zone regions in the
world. To give you a little background these regions were identified by Dan Buettner,
working with National Geographic, and a team of scientists. They were researching
communities that have the longest living, healthiest and happiest people in the world.
The Blue Zones, as he calls them, share 9 features that he labeled the Power Nine in
his book “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived
the Longest” Buettner gave a Ted talk discussing the secrets that make those five areas
so different.
The benefits of the Power Nine make up a lifestyle with benefits significant enough that
rest of the world is starting to take notice. Not only are they taking notice many cities are
looking for ways to implement the Power Nine into community lifestyles. Although not
everything can be replicated, areas working improving health with Blue Zone changes
are seeing improvements in overall health and longevity. So, what is it about the lifestyle
in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica that results in people being healthier, happier and
living longer?

This pie chart posted on bluezones.com showing the eating habits of Nicoya Peninsula centurions was accessed the 21st of July 2022.

The Power Nine in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Natural Movement
Costa Ricans in this area are engaging in physical activities every day. They are
taking beach walks or jungle hikes, and are surfing, backpacking, gardening or
working the land. The natural movements of everyday activities help to prevent
chronic health conditions, improve balance and maintain mobility. It also has the
added benefit of improving mood and mental health.

Sense of Purpose
Identifying interest and strengths and a purpose or reason for getting up is shown
to improve overall happiness and self-esteem. Here in Costa Rica success is
important, but far less frantic than in other areas of the world. Priorities shift to a
relaxed Pura Vita lifestyle focused more on productivity through connecting. A
sense of purpose can be as simple as having a hobby that helps others, showing
up to help a neighbor or friend, mentoring the younger generations or even
volunteering. Elder generations are viewed affectionately and with respect. Their
contributions are welcome and valued.


Stress Management
People in Nicoya spend a lot of time outside tending to gardens or the land and
interacting with nature. Activities done in nature, praying, napping, and spending
time with family and friends all reduce chronic stress. The lifestyle here supports
and encourages the type of self-care that ensures stress levels remain low and
don’t turn chronic. 

80% Rule
Blue Zone communities are characterized by a habit of eating until their
stomachs are about 80% full. It is common that they also have smaller meals,
and that the last meal is early in the evening, leaving a window for digestion
before bed.  The people tend to practice and encourage mindful eating, which
adds to longevity. 


Plant-forward Diet
Animal protein is a small amount of the diet and is often used for celebrations or
special meals. What is eaten is mostly fresh local plant-sourced foods like
papaya, yams, squash, black beans, cooked plantains, homemade corn tortillas,
rice, chicken and fish. Food here is fresh and not processed. Fresh, local food
plays a huge part in reducing heart disease. A primarily plant-based diet reduces
depression, cognitive decline and increases lifespan. 


Moderate alcohol
A glass or two of wine at dinner is common in four out of the five Blue Zones
including the Nicoya Peninsula. Moderate wine intake is associated with
improving health outcomes including reducing diabetes, some cancers and age-
related cognitive decline. 


Community
Healthy habits are contagious. Things are more laid back in Costa Rica, people
connect and get together. Social circles support healthy lifestyles and behaviors.
It is common that people get together to head to the beach, attend church, go on
a hike or take a walk. A close knit community that stays active helps to maintain
physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health throughout life and into old age.
The result is that as people here age, they stay connected, independent,
maintain higher cognitive abilities and have a strong sense of purpose.


Spirituality
Faith-based communities here in the Nicoya Peninsula are dynamic. Studies
have shown, that regardless of your faith, improved engagement leads to higher
life expectancy, an improved immune system and a healthier heart. 


Family First
Family comes first in these areas. Parents invest in their children and marriage
relationships and divorce rates are lower. It is common for aging family members
to live in the family home and to contribute to family responsibilities. 


Takeaway
In the Nicoya Peninsula community, the lifestyle incorporates the Power Nine. This area
is one of the five healthiest places to live on earth and has the added benefit of being in
one of the most beautiful. It’s a little off the beaten path and we love it that way.

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