#53: 🇵🇹 Could Portugal be the next Blue Zone?
Discovering the Secrets of Centenarians & Portugal's Path to Longevity
Thank you to everyone who came and joined the crowd of over 200 health enthusiasts.
Going with this theme, today’s newsletter is all about living a long life and why Portugal is a great country to grow old in.
💬 In this note:
🇵🇹 Could Portugal be the next Blue Zone?
📚 Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones
⚡️ Life Visions
🇵🇹 Could Portugal be the next Blue Zone?
You’re wandering through the steep, windy streets of Alfama in Lisbon. The sun is casting a warm glow on the balconies and cobblestone streets.
You smell fresh pastéis de nata in the air.
As you approach a street corner, you see a significant number of elderly folks, vibrant and chatting loudly with their neighbors at a local cafe.
A few leave carrying big bags of groceries up the hill to their homes.
You’re suddenly surprised and you find this peculiar. You haven’t seen so many healthy, fit and energetic elderly people in one place.
Why is this?
Could it be because Portugal is on its way to becoming the next Blue Zone?
What are Blue Zones?
Blue Zones are regions of the world with the highest concentration of centenarians, people who live to be over 100 years old.
The 5 Blue Zones in the world are:
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Loma Linda, California (Read more about Loma Linda in Nina’s Notes #32)
But what about Portugal?
In the last 10 years, the population of 100-year-olds in Portugal grew by 77%.
Portugal has a total population of roughly 10 million people, with nearly 3,000 of them over the age of 100.
In comparison Costa Rica, a declared Blue Zone, is home to ~800 people whose ages range from 100 to 116 years old with a total population of ~5 million.
Those numbers make it sound like Portugal is on its way to becoming a Blue Zone!
How can you transform a community into a Blue Zone?
Studies of Blue Zones have found that it’s not just about genetics or a specific diet, but a blend of factors. 12 in fact.
These 12 factors are common between the five Blue Zones and we can integrate them into our lives no matter where we are in the world.
They can even be integrated into a community to raise the life expectancy of the entire population.
The four core themes that emerged were strong community ties (connection), regular physical activity (move naturally), a plant-based diet (eat wisely), and a sense of purpose (outlook on life).
In the Blue Zones, people form genuine connections with members of their community. Whether that connection is with family, a partner or a social circle in the community, investing in these friendships and relationships is crucial to longevity.
I think the most important thing for longevity is to decrease loneliness. We are in a loneliness epidemic.
The centenarians of these Blue Zones are not members of fancy gyms or fitness apps. They stay fit by seamlessly weaving physical activity into their lives and keep active everyday with minimal effort.
Instead of driving everywhere, they are walking. They are taking the stairs. They also do many things by hand like chopping wood or keeping up with hobbies that require them to use their hands. Many centenarians have taken to gardening and growing their own vegetables as well.
Maintaining a state of calm, having lower stress and finding purpose in one’s life were consistent findings across the centenarians studied in the five Blue Zones.
Instead of sitting in front of a screen at the end of the day to decompress, many choose to unwind by socializing, dancing and even drinking together. Many also belong to faith-based communities and devote time to their beliefs and congregations.
People living in Blue Zones tend to eat a plant based diet and surprisingly, they will also drink one or two glasses of wine per day while socializing. They eat in moderation, eat slowly and respond to their body’s cues that they are full and are not consistently overeating.
Why is Portugal uniquely positioned to be next Blue Zone?
Portugal’s Mediterranean climate, emphasis on community, and diet rich in fresh fish, vegetables, and olive oil, already has many of the Blue Zone factors in play.
The Portuguese lifestyle, with its slower pace, emphasis on family, and love for the outdoors, aligns perfectly with the Blue Zone ethos.
Potential Blue Cities in Portugal
While Portugal is beautiful from north to south, certain communities stand out as potential Blue cities. Cities like Porto, with its active waterfront and tight-knit neighborhoods, or Faro, with its fresh seafood and sun-soaked streets immediately come to mind. But one city, in particular, captured my attention: Cascais (pronounced like Kash-Ki-shhhh)
The Cascais Experiment
I spent some time in Cascais trying to better understand its potential for becoming a Blue Zone. With its stunning beaches, historic sites, and active community life, it seemed like a perfect candidate.
I walked along the city observing and interacting with locals, and came upon the finish of a race. It was the Cascais Swim Challenge, an open water swimming challenge with distances up to 20 kilometers (!!!) and several competitors in their 60s (!!!). I found a park with live Fado music and several people simply dancing in the sunshine.
Its proximity to the sea ensures a diet rich in fresh seafood and the city's layout encourages walking as the preferred method of transportation. Cascais’ vibrant community events ensure that residents are always engaged, both physically and mentally. All these elements combined point towards Cascais being on the right track to officially becoming a Blue Zone.
The Expat Boom
Cascais has seen a surge of expats in recent years and I can see why.
Its charm, combined with the health benefits of living there, makes it an attractive destination.
Many expats I spoke to mentioned that they appreciate the healthy Portuguese lifestyle, the sense of community, and of course, the stunning beauty of Cascais.
While it's too early to officially label Cascais or any other Portuguese city as a Blue Zone, the potential is undeniable.
And if you ever get the chance to visit, do it! You might just find yourself dancing with a centenarian on the cobblestone streets of Cascais.
📚 Book of the Week
Not a book, but a show.
Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones on Netflix is a four-part series where Dan Buettner, explorer and best-selling author, takes us on a journey to the regions of the world with the highest number of centenarians.
He shows us first hand what these five places have in common that lead to long and healthy lives and how we can integrate this lifestyle into our lives.
In an interview with CBS News, Buettner teases three new locations he’s studying and hopes to share soon.
I’m betting that Portugal is on that list!
⚡️ Check This Out
Don’t know Greg? He’s a serial entrepreneur and drops serious gems in your inbox with his newsletter, Late Checkout. He’s worth following.
His latest post about Life Visions has me screaming.
I always set yearly goals, I keep them in my Apple Notes app, think about them at the beginning of the year and then forget about them.
When I go to set goals for the next year, I review the previous years goals, and even though I wasn’t actively reviewing them each month, somehow…by some miracle, I achieve more than 90% of the things on the list.
I would be at 100% if I hadn’t set “Reaching B2 level German” on the list. That one has been on the list for 4 years….I should have known better.
For 2023 - I FORGOT to set goals.
I suppose I forgot because I had a lot going on at the end of 2022 and the beginning of this year.
I moved countries. ‘Tchuss Deutschland, Olá Portugal!
I got a new job - ‘sup Center for the Unknown
Moved into a beautiful apartment that I’m slowly filling with plants
And I hit a big milestone with the newsletter - 50+ weeks. BOOM
I achieved goals even if I hadn’t written them down.
But…what if I had?
What could I have accomplished?
I was inspired by Greg’s Life Visions post because I truly believe in the power of manifestation and I think taking even a few seconds to think about what you want in life and writing it down puts you on a path to achieving those goals.
Many of you don’t know but my favorite hobby aside from writing is pottery.
I recently told a friend, “In 50 years, I see myself still doing ceramics and having my own ceramics studio. I will be 85 years old and still very strong because of lifting 10kg bags of clay and working with clay. I will have my ceramics in galleries across the world.”
I can see it in my mind’s eye and I’m writing it down now to put it out there into the world.
My friend replied “Nina, that’s incredible. Most people can’t see themself doing anything at 85 years old.”
I leave you with this. Close your eyes. Where do you see yourself in a year, 5 years, 10, 20, 50, 70 years!?
Write that shit down.