Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Bringing the Blue Zone Home

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
 
It seems I've found a new catch-phrase; one that epitomizes everything I am trying to accomplish in my own personal life and that is, simply finding my way toward health living.  Last week, I spent a bit of time exploring the concept of Blue Zones in my post, Migrating the Blue Zone into Your Own Back Yard.  Blue zones are places in the world where people live longer and healthier without medication or disability.   Journalist Dan Buettner searched for reasons five areas of the world -- Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda California; Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica, and an isolated Greek island, Ikaria -- inspired people to live longer, healthier, happier lives.  His findings?  LIFESTYLE!!!  I mean, really!  Can it get any clearer to us that our lifestyle choices (and it IS a choice) is slowly but surely killing us?
 
When I did a little digging, I found communities that have truly embraced the concept of Blue Zone living.  As they were all in USA, I went looking for what Canada has to offer.  Did you know, in the 10 years between 1996 and 2006, the number of centenarians in Canada doubled and this rise is expected to continue?  While we have known for some time that we  are living longer, what I wasn't able to find are the statistics on that razor-edged line when age becomes synonymous with poor health.  Our hospitals and nursing homes are, after all, filled to overflowing with seniors that are no longer able to care for themselves.
 
Getting a shave

 
The fact is, it doesn't have to be this way.  We control 70% of the factors influencing our health.  Research by the US Urban Institute and Center for Disease Control and Prevention have documented four key factors on an individual's health:  access to care: 10%; genetics:  20%; environment:  20%; health behaviours:  50%.  Through a series of small meaningful changes within our communities as well as at home, we can make a difference in how we live, work and play.
 
I admit, I'm  more than a little disappointed to discover that Canada has not really embraced Blue Zone Community living as some areas of the USA have.  While I discovered that areas of southern Nova Scotia seems to have qualities much akin to Buettner's identified five areas of the world, I have not been able to find a single community in Canada that is actively pursuing Blue Zone philosophy and embracing its attributes.  Whereas in the USA, there are 14 communities (10 of which are located in Iowa) striving to incorporate Blue Zone principles into its day-to-day life, this doesn't seem to be the case in Canada.
 
I have to ask, WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?  Are we each not personally responsible to bring about some level of change -- within our communities as well as within our homes?  Do we really want to see what our world will look like when debilitating chronic disease outweighs workforce productivity?  How will Canada compete globally?  We already have a health care system struggling to find affordable ways of providing services; do we really want health care to be a privilege as opposed to a right?  What weighs on my  mind more and more everyday is, what will be my experience in a few years; I have to admit, what I envision isn't exactly pretty.
 
All each of us has to do is adopt 9 healthy principles (dubbed 'Power 9 Principles'): focused on becoming more physically active, or moving naturally; eating wisely, having purpose; and participating in our community, to add years to our lives.  It seems so simple -- so why do we make it so hard?
 

The art of fly fishing
 

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