Here’s a couple of facts about where I live. I am going to live longer than I should, and I’m going to get my aging body shook around way more than it should be shaken.
BLUE ZONE: This is a brief view of where I chose to live – the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, the largest “Blue Zone” in the world. Blue Zones are areas, defined by demographics and/or geographics, where the residents live not only longer lives, but healthier long lives. The National Geographic Society has been identifying and researching these areas for years, and have come up with a few reasons why people who live in such areas seem to not only live to more advanced ages, but do their aging well. And, it’s not like the people who live in these Blue Zones are superhuman, or anything. Something called the Danish Twin Study has established that longevity of life and overall health are 25 percent decided by genetics, and 75 percent decided by lifestyle. I know more about the Nicoya Peninsula, so that’s what I’ll write about here.
The Nicoya Peninsula is an 80 mile-long finger of land that run south of Nicaragua, and is almost separated from the rest of Costa Rica. Someone who reaches the age of 60 living on the Nicoya Peninsula has twice the chance of seeing 90 as do Americans, French, Italians, or even Japanese.
Costa Ricans invest approximately 15 percent of what the United States does on health care. Though some people and organizations have tried, it’s really impossible to quantify how much healthier and happier people are in Costa Rica compared to the United States, so you’ll have to take my un-scientific opinion. I have traveled and lived in most areas of both countries, and Europe, and as objectively as I can be about what I’ve seen and experienced, most Costa Ricans are so much healthier and happier than most U.S. citizens, and many Europeans.
Several of the observations of researcher Dan Buettner and the National Geographic Society team investigating Blue Zones suggest reasons why people live longer and healthier lives in these areas.
People who live on the Nicoya Peninsula sleep an average of eight hours a night. They eat healthy foods. They are family oriented. Most of them get plenty of physical exercise, either through work, recreation, or the daily routine of living.
I sleep longer since I’ve moved here than I did in the United States or Europe. I wake up when the sun comes up, take a siesta in the afternoon, and am usually shutting down when the sun goes down, and go to sleep when the feeling hits me. I eat like a local -fresh fruits and vegetables every day -not bio-engineered to look pretty on display at the mega-super-duper-maket – along with beans, rice, plantains, and fish are staples. And, that fish. My fish guy brings fish to my apartment building once or twice a week – fresh off the boat…no high mercury levels like that color-injected crap found in industrialized nations. I exercise more, swimming in the ocean…walking the beach…walking everywhere, since I don’t own a car.
The result of all this change in lifestyle: I had clumps of fat building up under my skin in hard little balls when I came here, now they’re gone, as well as about twenty pounds of fat. I’ve had to buy new clothes, since my pants were literally sliding off my skinny ass if I stood still and wasn’t holding them by the belt loops. My wife and I have cut out 90 percent of the medications we were taking for high blood pressure, anxiety, pain, and other lifestyle-related problems. My wife weighed 186 pounds when I met her, now she weighs a healthy 122 pounds. She comments now and again on muscles in her arms, legs and stomach area she hasn’t seen for a decade or two – we’re both around 50 years-old.
EARTHQUAKE ZONE: I also chose to live in the most seismically active area of the world, but not on purpose…although it is kind of interesting to feel the earth shaking regularly…reminding me how small and delicate I am, living in a big world that could knock me off my feet at any moment. This makes sense, since I live right where the Pacific Plate is trying to push its way underneath the Cocos Plate. I find the name Cocos Plate kind of ironic since “cocos” means coconuts in Spanish, which is what most of the dogs and many of the people here do when a quake hits – go coconuts ! ! !
According to the Costa Rican Volcanology and Seismology Observatory (OVSICORI) there has been more earthquake activity since the September 5th rock-and-roller than there has been in 62 years. The first big one in September was a 7.6 magnitude, second in power only to the 7.8 magnitude in 1950. And, they also guestimated that only 40 percent of the stress from the two tectonic plates rubbing together was relieved by that quake !
Now, don’t go thinking I or anyone else who lives here is coconuts. These quakes happen so regularly that it is hardly worth mention. There are two different Spanish words for “seismic events” here; “temblors” are the little jolts that wake people up or make the power flicker, and “terremotos” are the ones that knock stuff off the shelves and leave cracks in concrete walls. There are cracks in most concrete walls here. Most of these “seismic events” happen without notice. Here’s the low-down on the numbers for the past three years:
2010 – 6,245 earthquakes: that’s 17.1 per day
2011 – 5,483 earthquakes: that’s 15.02 per day
2012 – 11,049 earthquakes: thats 30.27 per day
Pura Vida, as they say down here.
(And, it’s only called “down” here because people from the northern hemisphere were more advanced at the art of map-making when maps, globes, and commonly held opinions were being developed…did you ever think of that? Why not turn all the maps upside down?)