Association of Human Longevity with Local Environmental Factors in Blue Zones
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Arnett, Megan Renee
The world’s population age structure is undergoing a demographic transition, with the elderly population becoming the fastest growing age group, due to people living healthier and longer lives. However, there are certain locations where populations are living exceptionally longer than others. These locales have been identified as Blue Zones. The term ‘Blue Zone’ (BZ) refers to geographic regions with populations that have exceptional longevity and share a common environment and lifestyle. Thus far, five BZs have been identified: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica and Loma Linda, California. Isolated populations, lower rates of chronic diseases and numerous sociocultural aspects are commonalities among these regions. While lifestyle and dietary characteristics have been the predominate focus of these populations, there remains a gap in BZ research as to whether environmental factors are associated with longevity. This study aimed to determine if ambient environmental factors related to place are associated with this phenomenon in BZs. An important factor influencing human health is water quality, and degradation of this natural resource has become a global concern. Water is essential for the human body to function properly, and groundwater, the main source of potable water in BZs, contains added minerals that are advantageous for health. The present study utilized population and water quality data to analyze associations between human longevity and physiochemical parameters of water quality in BZs. Results from this research revealed a positive association between pH and longevity, high total water hardness levels and similarities in hydrogeology amid all BZ locations.