The Nicoya Peninsula is one of a few rare places in the world (known as a blue zone) where people live longer, happier and much healthier lives. This is, quite simply, the healthiest place on earth.
Renowned for being home to more centenarians than any other place on earth, Costa Rica’s Blue Zone has fascinated the world and captivated the attention of scientists for decades. The Nicoya Peninsula, in northwest Costa Rica, is home to a staggering number of old, happy and healthy folks (like, really, really old) and it is said that living here doubles your chances of reaching a very healthy state at 90 years of age, and very high chance that you’ll get to 100 still enjoying la Pura Vida. It’s certainly incentive enough to move to Costa Rica in retirement, some may think, although scientists believe that it’s a full life lived in this stupendously luscious wilderness, and genetic inheritance, that actually counts most.
Oh well. We could always visit and soak up the benefits. And plenty of green coffee. That couldn’t possibly hurt.
When was Costa Rica’s Blue Zone Discovered?
Scientists have been moseying about Nicoya for decades but it wasn’t until US researcher Dan Buettner published his 2004 study (which he carried out in conjunction with National Geographic) on the world’s Blue Zones that the rest of the world learnt of this phenomenon, and its new moniker. Buttner’s book shone the light on this incredible region, and that of specific pockets of Japan, Italy and Greece, and even California where people don’t just live longer but also enjoy a much better state of overall health, requiring far fewer medication because they simply don’t suffer as many ailments. Not even much later in life.
In Costa Rica, longevity has always been celebrated and anytime someone turns one hundred a special mention is made in the national newspaper. Needless to say, this happens a lot. Out of the five Blue Zone regions, Costa Rica boasts the most number of male centenarians and the lowest rate of middle-age mortality.
What Essential Factors Hint at this Unique Longevity?
Demographers have been trying for the last decade to hone in their research on the specific reasons people in Blue Zones enjoy such healthy longevity. So far, they’ve managed to narrow it down to a few commonalities of all five regions:
- They feel a strong sense of community with focus on nuclear families
- They feel needed and have plenty of reasons to live
- They live in sociable communities which include them
- They’ve all enjoyed active lives, mostly working on the land
- They boast a healthy amount of daily exercise, although for most it’s through work
- They’ve enjoyed mineral-rich drinking water all their lives
- Leading outdoor lives ensure they’ve all had their fill of Vitamin D and all boast stronger bones
- Whether religious or spiritual, they all maintain a deep faith of one kind or another
- They all maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, with a focus very much on moderation for just about everything. From drinking to eating, exercising and resting
The Costa Rica Blue Zone Effect
These reasons, in general, account for the high rate of good health in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. There are fewer instances of heart disease, obesity, cancers and ailments (at any age), given the healthy lifestyle and uber-healthy eating habits, with most diets based on raw and organic fresh produce, which boast plenty of antioxidants. Heavily processed foods, animal fat and added refined sugars are almost non-existent here.
What is beautiful to know is that the emotional wellbeing really seems to place an emphasis on physical wellbeing. Ticos are a sociable and loving people and this is a culture where older people are respected and included, not locked away in homes and hardly ever visited. There are certainly old age homes in Costa Rica, but visit one in your 40s and you may be excused for wanting to move in right away. Jovial, helpful and communal, Costa Rica’s aged home care centers are totally unique.
Nuclear families and daily social contact seems to be imperative in ensuring one’s heart, mind and body, reach a ripe old age. In Costa Rica, grandparents are encouraged to contribute to family life, so whether it’s to babysit a little one, peel potatoes or buy groceries, they all have a reason to get up in the morning and head out, which undoubtedly helps them feel needed and loved.
There are plenty who would argue that Costa Rica’s top notch health care system and peaceful essence help people live longer, yet what is important to note is that centenarians of the Nicoya Peninsula have had little need for modern medicines. And, besides, there are quite a few peaceful countries around the world, yet they don’t seem to benefit to such high degrees as Costa Ricans.
Perhaps all visitors to this magnificent country could take home a few pointers. Have a reason to get up in the morning, enjoy a close family life, don’t overindulge in anything and enjoy everything…in moderation. Keep active, keep interested, nurture friendships and, above all else, remove the excessive stresses of modern day life in frenetic countries where the pace seems to overrun everybody.
And if you can enjoy a cup of green coffee and a –plate of maze and beans every day, then you’ll be well on your way to discovering the secrets that lie behind Costa Rica’s Blue Zone.