Jessica Naber, professor of nursing, acts as lead researcher on the faculty project on ‘blue zones’ and community health (Photo courtesy of Jessica Naber).
Aiming to share their research on life longevity and offer lifestyle advice to local residents, faculty from the nursing, exercise science, nutrition and psychology departments recently published a website.
The website focuses on “blue zones,” or regions with some of the world’s longest life expectancies. These areas include Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.
Longevity researchers from National Geographic identified commonalities between the blue zones, including plant-based diets, moderate consumption of red wine, religious affiliation and a sense of purpose.
Jessica Naber, a nursing professor and a lead researcher in the project, said the website was established to provide ideas and recommendations based on the habits observed in blue zones.
“Our goal in creating this website was to compile health-related information from multiple resources into one easy-to-access place for community members,” Naber said.
Psychology professor Esther Malm is also helping analyze data and develop content for the evolving website.
“We want to promote a healthy physical, mental and emotional well-being for the people around us,” Malm said.
Malm hopes the impact of the project extends beyond scholarship to intervention and prevention.
“We’re hoping the study will be longitudinal, so we can continue developing tips and guidelines to educate community members,” Malm said.
Blue zones are usually associated with dieting. However, Naber said there is more to longevity than a healthy diet.
“Moving naturally rather than using other methods of transportation is a big one,” Naber said. “Taking time to be with friends and family very often, laughing together … these are all important.”
The website provides tips and resources in four categories: movement, rest, nutrition and connection. Naber said she and her colleagues are also comparing the habits of Calloway County residents with those of blue zone residents.
“We have studied blue zones by traveling to some of these areas, reading and researching,” Naber said. “We also have gathered information about what barriers people in Calloway County have to healthy living. The results of this research will be published on the website.”
The research plan has several parts, including developing the resource website, conducting a survey of 200 participants across multiple age groups in Calloway County and interviewing residents aged 90 and older to determine their habits.
Following the completion of these goals, the researchers plan to present their findings in local elementary schools.
“So far, we have shared the website information via social media, newsletters and televisions in our buildings on campus,” Naber said. “Once the other results are published, we hope to do more publicity.”
The other participating faculty members are the Assistant Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Professions and Director of the Exercise Science program, Amelia Dodd; the Director of the Family Nurse Practitioner program, Janice Thurmond; the nutrition program Director, Lauren Roberson; and the assistant professor of Occupational Safety and Health, Oluwabunmi Dada.
The website is updated regularly and can be found at sites.google.com/murraystate.edu/communityvitality.
Anyone with questions can email [email protected].