Scroll down for the 9 secrets
Healthier living and medical advances have pushed life expectancy in the USA to 79 (81 for women, 76 for men), but some people live much longer than that. Author Dan Buettner knows a strong gene pool is important, but anyone can add on an extra 12 years, he says. You don’t have to take a supplement to do it, he says, or take up jogging.
Since the 1990s, Buettner has been traveling with teams of researchers to areas around the world where people live the longest. They observe how lifestyle and environment come into play. He has written two books and is working with Healthways to help cities and businesses in the USA make healthy changes. His latest update hits bookstores this week: Blue Zones(National Geographic) adds a segment on Ikaria, Greece, a 99-square-mile island 30 miles off the coast of Turkey. After the first edition was published in 2008, he says Greek researchers contacted him about Ikaria.
“They gave us the tip” that the island has 10 times as many siblings over the age of 90 compared with any other place in Europe,” says Buettner, 52. “Then we got a grant from National Geographic to go there. The first expedition was to look at birth and death records. The second expedition was to tease out what’s going on.”
They confirmed the longevity numbers and found Ikarians also have less cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and dementia than other parts of Europe, and men outlive women.
In addition to eating a healthy Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, healthy fats and fish and seafood), there are other key habits and values embraced by the Ikaria
inhabitants. He has seen those same habits in the other four Blue Zones: Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Okinawa, Japan. The Blue Zones get their name from the blue pen used to draw circles on a map locating the areas.
The nine lessons:
1. Move naturally. Don’t do marathons or pump iron; work around the house, garden, walk, cycle, walk when talking on the phone.
2. Know your purpose. Have a reason for waking up in the morning.
3. Kick back. Find ways to shed stress, whether it’s praying, napping or going to happy hour.
4. Eat less. Stop eating when you are 80% full.
5. Eat less meat. Beans are a cornerstone of most centenarians’ diets.
6. Drink in moderation. Only the Seventh-day Adventists in California didn’t have one to two glasses a day.
7. Have faith. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter, but attending faith-based services (4 times a month) does.
8. Power of love. Put families first, including committing to a partner and keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby.
9. Stay social. Build a social network that supports healthy behaviors.
The principles have been adopted by Healthways, a business dedicated to improving well-being, in its Blue Zones Project. Buettner works with them to encourage cities and businesses to draw up comprehensive plans (make walking paths in communities, point out tasty and healthy choices in grocery stores, work with restaurants to improve menus, encourage people to have best friends at work). A current project: a goal to make Iowa the healthiest state, which Gov. Terry Branstad, local business leaders and health care officials have endorsed.
“It thrills me to no end to take wisdom from a place like Ikaria and try to put it in place in Iowa,” says Buettner. “We have 110 evidence-based strategies that have measurable impact on life.”
By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY