Growing Bolder Radio has interviewed a remarkable man by the name of Dan Buettner. Dan holds several world endurance cycling records, is an adventurer, film producer, photographer, educator, and now author of the definitive book on longevity.
The book is called “The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” It’s the result of an exhaustive 7-year study of the 4 ‘Blue Zones’ around the world where people live past 100 in rates notably higher than the surrounding population.
The four hot spots of longevity are the mountainous Barbagia region of Sardinia, an island off Italy; the Japanese island of
Okinawa; a community of Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. So what’s the common denominator that leads to long life in these diverse cultures? Buettner says the vigorous super-elderly all have close family relationships, a sense of purpose, and healthy eating habits. He doesn’t mention good genes. That means, it’s largely up to you and the lifestyle choices you make.
The only Blue Zone in America is the close-knit Adventist community in Loma Linda. The numbers don’t lie. Loma Linda women live nine years longer than other Californian females; Adventist men get 11 more years of life than their state counterpart.
Buettner says part of the
credit goes to the Bible-based Adventist diet and a fairly stress-free
healthy lifestyle, free of tobacco, alcohol and flesh foods. But the
big take-away from his research is how powerful a community of
like-minded individuals can be when it comes to establishing and
maintaining healthy habits. “There’s not the temptation that comes from
a social network that has poor heath habits” — California Adventists
report that 80 to 90 percent of their friends share their religious
beliefs. The “power of choosing your friends carefully,” Buettner says,
“is one of the most powerful messages for the rest of America.” ”The
sad reality is that we don’t respond as a species very well to behavior
modification, but if you put us in the right environment we’ll
generally do the right thing,” Buettner says.
Belonging to a
spiritual community is one of Buettner’s “Power 9,” or lifestyle
“secrets” in The Blue Zone. “I can tell you that of the 200 plus
centenarians I interviewed 99 percent believed in God, so faith seems
to factor fairly prominently.
So what’s on the
Power 9 list? A lot of common sense.
• Be active without thinking about it.
Identify activities you enjoy and make them a part of your day.
• Inconvenience yourself: ditch the remote, the garage
door opener, the leaf-blower; buy a bike, broom,
• Ride a bike instead of driving.
• Walk! Nearly all the centenarians we’ve talked
to take a walk every day.
2) Cut Calories by 20
• Practice “Hara hachi bi,” the Okinawan
reminder to stop eating once their stomachs are 80 percent full.
Serve yourself, put the food away, then eat.
• Use smaller plates, plates, bowls, and glasses.
• Sit and eat not in the car or standing in front of the
3) Plant-Based Diet.
• No, you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but do bump
up your intake of fruits and veggies.
• Use beans,
rice or tofu as the anchor to your meals.
nuts! Have a 2-ounce handful of nuts daily (it’ll stop you from digging
in the chip bag).
4) Drink Red Wine (in
• Keep a bottle of red wine near your
• Keep the daily intake to two
servings or less.
5) Plan de Vida: Determine
Your Life Purpose
• Why do you get up in the
• Write your own personal mission
• Take up a new challenge.
• Learn a language or an instrument.
6) Down Shift — Take Time to Relieve Stress; Relaxation is
• Don’t rush – plan on being 15 minutes
• Cut out the noise – limit time spent with
the television, computer, or radio on.
Belong/Participate in a Spiritual Community
Deepen your existing spiritual commitment.
out a new spiritual or religious tradition.
Put Loved Ones First/Make Family a Priority
Establish family rituals (game night, family walks, Sunday
• Show it off: create a place for family
pictures and souvenirs that shows how you’re all connected.
• Get closer: consider downsizing to a smaller home to
9) Pick the right tribe —
the people surrounding you influence your health more than almost any
• Be surrounded by those who share
Blue Zone values
• Identify your inner circle.
Reconsider ties to people who bring you down.