Blue Zones

Live Longer, Better

Nicoya, Costa Rica

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Geography

Just across the Taiwan Friendship Bridge, which spans the alligator-infested Tempisque River, lies an 80-mile-long finger of land, the Nicoyan Peninsula. The tropical sun dominates this area, located just south of the Nicaraguan border, along the Pacific coast. Nicoya’s unique longevity profile begins with its calcium and magnesium rich water.

Background

Like Sardinia and Okinawa, Nicoya is an isolated region, accessible only by ferry until 2003, when the Taiwan Friendship bridge was constructed. A Costa Rican man at age 60 has about twice the chance of reaching age 90 as does a man living in the United States, France, or even Japan. Costa Rica spends only 15 percent of what America does on health care, yet its people appear to be living longer, seemingly healthier lives than people in any other country on Earth. Nicoya has the lowest rates of cancer in the country. How do people living in this region of the world live healthy and long?

 

Longevity Highlights

Have a plan de vida
Nicoyan centenarians feel needed through fostering a plan de vida, or reason to live. This sense of purpose often centers around spending time with and providing for their family. This often results in centenarians retaining an active lifestyle, reaping the benefits of physical activity and exposure to the sun. Like the Adventists, faith plays a strong role in the Nicoyan lifestyle. Relinquishing control of their life to God helps relieves stress and anxiety related to well-being.

Get Sleep
Nicoyans sleep an average of 8 hours per day, prompted by a lack of electricity, which causes them to hit their beds around 8:30PM and wake with the sun.

Eat Longevity Fruits
They, like those in the other Blue Zones, eat rich, colorful fruits. The maroñon, a red-orange fruit with more vitamin C than oranges and the anona, a pear-like fruit rich in antioxidants provide Nicoyans with nutrient dense, longevity foods. Their gardens flow rich with rice, beans and corn, all staples in the diet.

Lessons From Nicoya

  1. Have a plan de vida. Similar to Okinawans ikigai, Nicoyans always nurture their plan de vida, or reason to live, which encourages them to contribute to their community.
  2. Drink hard water. High amounts of calcium and magnesium, essential for bone and muscle strength, abound in Nicoya’s water. By drinking and cooking with this water, people here get their daily intake of calcium throughout their entire lives!
  3. Focus on your family and friends. Having a good relationship with their family and maintaining a strong social network contributes greatly to centenarian’s sense of purpose and well-being.
  4. Work hard. Nicoyan centenarians maintain a strong work ethic, which keeps them active and healthy while contributing to their sense of purpose.
  5. Plan your meals. Nicoyans eat their biggest meal in the morning and their smallest meal at night.
  6. Get some sun. Nicoyans enjoy healthy doses of daily sun, enriching their bodies with Vitamin D. Getting at least 15 minutes every day can decrease the risk for osteoporosis and heart disease.