A recent report finds that residents in California, Minnesota and Utah tend to have especially long and healthy lives — putting these states in contention for so-called "blue zones" status.
Author Dan Buettner came up with the concept of blue zones as he traveled globally conducting research to figure out the secrets to living longer. His work is now featured in a popular Netflix documentary series called "Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones."
Buettner says that some of the pillars to the lifestyles embraced by residents of blue zones include exercising daily, eating whole foods like vegetables and nuts, being social and having a sense of purpose. Residents of Buettner's five blue zones (locations in Italy, Greece, Japan and Costa Rica, as well as Loma Linda, California) have lower incidence of chronic disease and much longer life expectancies than the general population. Buettner also suggests that there may be other blue zones that will emerge in the future.
Overall, longevity in the U.S. appears to be rising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in November that life expectancy was 77.5 years in 2022, up by 1.1 years from 2021 when COVID-19 and heart disease deaths were higher. On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal reports that our "healthspans" — the time when people are active and not sick or in pain — is shrinking.
Where are the best places to live for a long, healthy life? A new index from online pharmacy NowPatient builds around Buettner’s theories, grading U.S. states on the health and longevity of their residents, and their potential to be home to new blue zones.
The index is based on data relating to sleep, physical activity and anxiety/depression. The index also rewards states for reasons that might seem curious, like having a high number of Google searches for meat-free restaurants.
Why might this be? According to NowPatient, “Blue Zones’ food guidelines specifically recommend reducing eggs, fish, and dairy. In fact, if you want to eat like those in the blue zones, then your diet must be between 95.0% to 100.0% plant-based.”
Among the other categories that some may deem as controversial or questionable: States where a high share of the population is religious also rank higher. This is because people who live in high-life-expectancy blue zones tend to belong to faith-based communities, according to Buettner's research.
10 states most likely to become "blue zones"
Buettner's ideas on longevity have made waves in health and wellness circles. Here's a ranking of the top 10 states most likely to become blue zones:
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
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