This Central American nation isn’t that far from the U.S. geographically, but it is way ahead of us in longevity. The Caribbean nation is economically secure and has excellent health care. But other factors are at play, especially in Nicoya, an 80-mile peninsula just south of the Nicaraguan border.
One is the “plan de vida,” or reason to live, which propels a positive outlook among elders and helps keep them active. Another is a focus on family and a special ability to listen and laugh. Nicoyan centenarians frequently visit with neighbors, and they tend to live with families and children or grandchildren who provide support, as well as a sense of purpose.
Read more below about the lessons that Nicoya, Costa Rica can teach you about longevity.
We have obtained information from Nicoya, Costa Rica on ways to live longer and be happier. This information has been translated into lessons that can be implemented into your everyday life.
Have a plan de vida.
Successful centenarians have a strong sense of purpose. They feel needed and want to contribute to a greater good.
Drink hard water.
Nicoyan water has the country’s highest calcium content, perhaps explaining the lower rates of heart disease, as well as stronger bones and fewer hip fractures.
Keep a focus on family.
Nicoyan centenarians tend to live with their families, and children or grandchildren provide support and a sense of purpose and belonging.
Eat a light dinner.
Eating fewer calories appears to be one of the surest ways to add years to your life. Nicoyans eat a light dinner early in the evening. For most of their lives, Nicoyan centenarians ate a traditional Mesoamerican diet highlighted with the “three sisters” of agriculture: squash, corn, and beans.
Maintain social networks.
Nicoyan centenarians get frequent visits from neighbors. They know how to listen, laugh, and appreciate what they have.
Keep hard at work.
Centenarians seem to have enjoyed physical work of all their lives. They find joy in everyday physical chores.
Get some sensible sun.
Nicoyans regularly take in the sunshine, which helps their bodies produce vitamin D for strong bones and healthy body function. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a host of problems, such as osteoporosis and heart disease, but regular, “smart” sun exposure (about 15 minutes on the legs and arms) can help supplement your diet and make sure you’re getting enough of this vital nutrient.
Embrace a common history.
Modern Nicoyan’s roots to the indigenous Chorotega and their traditions have enabled them to remain relatively free of stress. Their traditional diet of fortified maize and beans may be the best nutritional combination for longevity the world has ever known.
[Try this 5-Minute Tasty Squash and Beans for a taste of Costa Rican homecooking.]
This is an excerpt from Blue Zones: Lessons For Living Longer From The People Who’ve Lived The Longest by Dan Buettner, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.