How does Dan Buettner stay healthy? For one thing, his job _ writing and
speaking about longevity hot spots _ keeps him busy.
Buettner, 52, is author of "The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the
People Who've Lived the Longest" ($14.95, National Geographic).
It is a one of several books he has written about people whose lifestyles and
locales _ "blue zones" _ have kept them alive and kicking longer than most of
The essentials of what he's saying are at www.bluezones.com, the online
component of what has become a mini-industry and a mission for Minneapolis-based
Buettner. In an interview, he talked about ...
WHAT PROMPTED HIS RESEARCH: "It's a scientific approach to longevity, knowing
that only about 20 percent of how long you live is genes; the other 80 percent
is lifestyle. The National Geographic's Expeditions Council and the National
Institute of Aging wanted me to learn about demographically-confirmed areas
where these (long-living) people are. It was a three-year, half-million-dollar
project to statistically identify them through birth and death records, etc.
"Once these pockets of people are identified, you can reverse-engineer the
long-life formula, and that's what we set out to do.
"It was kind of an uber-assignment for me to research and write.
"The point I try to make is that there's no 'silver bullet' _ no magical
vegetable or supplement. We found it was a swarm of 'silver buckshot' that adds
up to extraordinary longevity in five places."
THE LONG-LIVING PLACES: "There are five places. For women, it's the main island
of Okinawa, Japan. For men, it's the Nuoro highlands of Sardinia. For the best
chance of reaching 90 or 95, it's the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. The
longest-living Americans are Seventh-day Adventists who are concentrated around
Loma Linda, Calif., and the strictest Adventists live about 10 years longer than
"The final blue zone is Ikaria, Greece (an island in the Aegean Sea). It is not
only among the places for people who live longest, but there's hardly any
dementia there. The team that followed-up on my work surveyed people there who
were older than 70 and tested for physical and cognitive functioning.
"None of these spry centenarians tried to make it to 100; it just happened. But
they live in an environment and near foods that enabled this to happen.
"I tell the story of Stamatis Moraitis, who lived in America and had lung
cancer. He moved to back home to Ikaria _ and 37 years later is alive at 100
and, without chemotherapy, drugs or therapy, is cancer-free. The kicker: On a
trip back here to find his doctors, he learned they were all dead."
THE ROLE OF LIFESTYLE: "Ikaria is historically a melting pot, with Roman, Greek
and Turkish influences. There's no genetic purity you can point to. There's
nothing in these people that the people 8 miles away on the island of Samos
"Ikaria has been known for centuries for radon baths; there are high levels of
ground radiation on the north side of the island. It was a health destination in
ancient times. That's one theory.
"But I believe people on Ikaria adhere to the Mediterranean diet more resolutely
than any other people on Earth. For decades, every day, every person there
drinks three kinds of tea in rotation _ an oregano tea, a sage tea and a thyme
tea _ with local honey. We had the teas tested; all have anti-inflammatory
properties and are diuretics, which lower blood pressure.
"They also grow and tend their own gardens, are physically active, socially
engaged, and don't live by the clock."
ISOLATION NOT A FACTOR: "Not all 'blue zone' places are remote. Costa Rica's
Nicoya Peninsula is a beach destination. Naha, Okinawa, is a city of maybe 1.4
million. At Loma Linda, Calif, you get off the exit and see a Weiner Hut and Del
Taco. They live in California smog, but they live longer than the rest of us by
"Longevity can also be as a tourist draw: "At Nicoya, a half-dozen 'blue zone'
businesses have popped up."
WILL GOING TO THE 'BLUE ZONES' REALLY HELP YOUR HEALTH? "Yes. If you go to
Disneyland and eat junk food and sit on rides, that's one thing. But if you
vacation at a place like the Nicoya Peninsula, you'll probably stay in a village
where you walk to dinner, have options for healthy dining and learn about how to
live a healthy lifestyle.
"One of the surest ways to get healthy is to move to a healthy place. Where I
live, Minneapolis, is one of the top five places for well-being in the United
States; not quite a 'blue zone,' but close.
"Boulder, Colo., is one of the happiest places. So is San Luis Obispo, Calif.
These are places where local leadership proactively planned for quality of life,
and they're among the healthiest cities in America."
(c)2013 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)
Visit The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) at www.charlotteobserver.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):
KeyWords:: BC-CNS-BLUEZONES:CH BC CNS BLUEZONES CH