Longer genes may speed up aging, according to a new study.  What to know about longevity in the Blue Zones and how to adopt that lifestyle

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A new study reveals the link between gene length and aging, shedding light on the secrets to the longevity of Blue Zone centenarians.A new study reveals the link between gene length and aging, shedding light on the secrets to the longevity of Blue Zone centenarians.

A new study revealed a link between gene length and aging, shedding light on the secrets to the longevity of Blue Zone centenarians. (Canvas)

New research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine revealed a critical link between gene length and aging. The study introduced the concept of gene length-dependent transcription decrease (GLTD), which shows that the longest genes in our body are more prone to damage, which can accelerate aging and influence the appearance of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

“The longer a gene is, the more likely it is to be damaged at least once,” explained report author Thomas Stoeger in Medical news today.

This genetic attribute could be a central cause of aging, suggesting that our genetic architecture (particularly the length of our genes) plays a role in how quickly we age and how our bodies combat age-related conditions. “If we understand more about aging, it could help us identify new ways to monitor and improve health,” Stoeger said. Medical news today.

Long genes that become less active with age may be the central cause of our body’s aging.Thomas Stoeger, PhD, via Medical News Today

This study is especially interesting when we think about people who live in Blue Zones, areas where many people over 100 years old live. These places are known for their healthy habits like eating lots of plants, staying active, and having strong community ties. The study hints that these healthy lifestyles could help protect our long genes from damage, which could be one of the reasons why people in the Blue Zones live such long, healthy lives. It suggests that the way these people live could work well with their genes to help them avoid some of the problems that come with aging.

But what makes these Blue Zones so unique? And how does lifestyle affect age? Registered dietitian Abbey Sharp recently shared tips on how to incorporate some of the wisdom of the Blue Zones into our own lives.

Here’s what you need to know.


What are blue zones?

Blue Zones are areas characterized by a high concentration of centenarians: people over 100 years old, who exceed global life expectancy averages.

These regions include places like:

What distinguishes these areas is not only the longevity of their populations but also their lifestyles. “These zones exhibit a combination of factors, including a plant-rich diet, regular physical activity, strong social connections, a sense of purpose and effective stress management techniques,” Sharp explained.

“It’s about adopting a mindset that values ​​health, purpose and connection, essential elements for a long and full life.”

There are nine lifestyle pillars in the Blue Zones, five of which Sharp highlighted as important to implement. These include:

  1. Move naturally: Physical activity is seamlessly integrated into daily life through activities such as walking, gardening, and household chores. Centenarians engage in regular, low-intensity exercise without relying on formal gym workouts or structured exercise programs.

  2. Aim: Blue Zone centenarians have a strong sense of purpose or reason for waking up in the morning. This purpose often derives from family, work or community involvement.

  3. Stress management or downshifting: Effective stress management techniques are prioritized, with an emphasis on finding ways to relax. This may include activities such as taking naps, spending time with loved ones, or participating in religious or spiritual practices.

  4. The ‘80% rule’: Centenarians often practice moderation when eating, adhering to the “80% rule.” They eat until they feel 80 percent satiated, avoiding excessive consumption.

  5. Plant-rich diet: Blue Zone diets are predominantly plant-based and contain abundant fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Animal products are consumed in moderation and red meat is consumed very rarely.


What do centenarians eat?

Plant-rich foods with lots of fiber and healthy fats are essential for Blue Zone diets.  (Getty) Balanced Nutrition Concept for DASH Clean Eating Flexitarian Mediterranean Diet to Stop Hypertension and Low Blood Pressure.  Assortment of healthy food ingredients for cooking on a kitchen table.Plant-rich foods with lots of fiber and healthy fats are essential for Blue Zone diets.  (Getty) Balanced Nutrition Concept for DASH Clean Eating Flexitarian Mediterranean Diet to Stop Hypertension and Low Blood Pressure.  Assortment of healthy food ingredients for cooking on a kitchen table.

Plant-rich foods with lots of fiber and healthy fats are essential for Blue Zone diets. (Getty)

A central element of the lifestyle of Blue Zone centenarians is their dietary pattern.

“Their diets are primarily plant-based, with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, all of which are rich in important fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We know this is associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and obesity,” Sharp explained.

While they are not strictly vegetarian, their diets include minimal red meat and focus on healthy fats such as those found in olive oil and nuts. Additionally, their meals feature minimal processing and lots of fresh ingredients, helping to reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

“Unlike the typical Western diet…they reduce the intake of highly processed meats and sugars. So there is a real emphasis on a whole foods, minimally processed diet.”


What else contributes to longevity?

In addition to dietary choices, Sharp highlighted physical activity and social connections as important lifestyle factors in Blue Zones.

“Instead of having structured exercises like we do in North America, typically, [physical activity] It’s just built into your day. “They are engaging in natural movements by walking more, walking to work, walking to the market, walking to gardening, walking to agriculture,” he stated.

It’s a slower pace of life, which can also contribute to longevity.

Social engagement and prioritizing family, friends and relationships, Sharp added, is “a very strong indicator of overall well-being and longevity.” Part of this is the strong cultural practices in the Blue Zones. “Typically there are a lot more rituals around eating and preparing food, or celebrations of life milestones, community gatherings.”

Environmental factors also matter; those in Blue Zones are generally surrounded by more nature and have more access to green spaces.


How can I live like a centenarian?

Family posing with grandmother celebrating the centenary during a celebration lunch.  Living a more conscious and slower life is a key practice among Blue Zone centenarians.  (Getty)Family posing with grandmother celebrating the centenary during a celebration lunch.  Living a more conscious and slower life is a key practice among Blue Zone centenarians.  (Getty)

Living a more conscious and slower life is a key practice among Blue Zone centenarians. (Getty)

According to Sharp, for those outside the Blue Zones, adopting a centenarian mindset is feasible.

When it comes to diet, making small changes to your daily meals can go a long way. “Prioritize whole foods, practice mindful eating, cook at home, limit processed foods and added sugars, moderate alcohol consumption, stay hydrated, embrace flexibility and variety in your diet,” he advised.

Sharp added that it’s important to “invest in the act of preparing food as an act of self-care and relaxation.”

Too often in our fast-paced lives, we are simply scarfing down meals. It’s an afterthought, if it’s even a thought.

Adding “unstructured activity” and interacting with nature can be as simple as parking farther from the door, taking the stairs more often, or taking phone calls outdoors.

Sharp also emphasized the importance of cultivating gratitude and enjoyment in mealtime experiences. “Approaching meals with a sense of gratitude and sharing them with our loved ones can be a powerful way to cultivate health and happiness, no matter where we live.”

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