Buettners’ ‘Blue Zones’ research reveals keys to longevity | PostIndependent.com

Buettners’ ‘Blue Zones’ research reveals keys to longevity

Anna Stewart
Post Independent correspondent

Tony Buettner

Do you think Garfield County, Colorado, is the healthiest place to live?

Okinawa, Japan, has less cancer, heart disease and dementia than the U.S. And Okinawan women live longer than any other women in the world.

Sardinia, Italy, has the highest concentration of male centenarians — 10 times more per capita than the U.S.

Natives of Ikaria, Greece, are almost entirely free of dementia and the other chronic diseases that plague Americans.

Nicoya, Costa Rica, has lower rates of middle-age mortality.

Loma Linda, California's 7th Day Adventists lead the entire country in longest life expectancy.

Recommended Stories For You

According to brothers Dan and Tony Buettner, the lives of the people in these five disparate parts of the world hold the secrets to longevity and good health.

In 2004, researcher and explorer Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and longevity experts to find the regions where people live much longer than average.

They discovered what they call "Blue Zones," the five geographical areas where people live longest. Buettner's findings first appeared in National Geographic's November 2005 issue, "The Secrets of Living Longer."

Buettner decided to put his findings to work. His Minnesota-based company, "Blue Zones," works to instill the world's best practices in longevity and well-being into peoples' lives.

Dan's brother, Tony Buettner, the company's national spokesperson and vice president who is visiting Glenwood Springs to speak at the Post Independent's Longevity Event Monday night, explains.

"Blue Zones distills why these populations live so long," he said. "On average, they live 10 years longer."

According to the Buettners, research on genetic determinants shows that longevity is tied to genes only by 20 percent. Lifestyle is 80 percent.

And around 68 percent of Americans are obese or diabetic.

Buettner's research led him to what he calls The Nine Commonalities. "We call them the Power Nine lessons of living a longer, happy life," he says.

The Power Nine

Move: These Blue Zone populations move naturally — their lifestyles and environments nudge them into physical motion. These people do not need to belong to gyms.

Reduce stress: Take a walk. Have dinner with family. Meditate.

Have a sense of purpose (plan de Vida — a life mission statement): Research shows that people that have a sense of purpose live seven years longer than those that don't.

Drink in moderation: Sardinians drink only a couple of glasses of wine a day. A glass of goat's milk wouldn't hurt either.

Eat less red meat: Look at the Mediterranean diet — fruits, vegetables, beans and olive oil. What 95 percent of these populations consume is a plant-based whole grain diet.

Eat less: Okinawans tend to stop eating when their stomachs are about 80 percent full. The Blue Zoners rule: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

Families: Long-lived populations have a simple rule — put family first.

Faith: People attending a faith-based community four times a month live four to 14 years longer than those who don't.

Be social: Have a laugh with friends. That laugh will reduce stress levels.

putting it into practice

The Buettners have taken their findings to American cities and towns.

"We work with organizations and communities to create community health initiatives that get people doing more of what the longest lived populations do," says Tony Buettner. "We help people learn how to eat better; teach them what these populations eat."

In 2009, the "Blue Zones" made its debut in Albert Lea, Minnesota, a town of 18,000 people. Around one-quarter of the adults, half the workplaces and nearly all kids in grades 3-8 participated.

"The community showed an 80 percent increase in walking and biking, 49 percent decrease in city workers' healthcare claims, and a 4 percent reduction in smoking," says Tony.

In 2010, the Blue Zones team visited three Southern California communities — Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach.

"Our work helped to lower their Body Mass Index by 14 percent, and their smoking by 30 percent," says Tony. "In these beach cities, we helped those communities reduce childhood obesity by over 50 percent.

"There's no silver bullet here, but our project drives awareness," he said.

longevity event

IF YOU GO

What: Speaker Tony Buettner with the Blue Zones Project provides science-based answers to living a longer and healthier life

When: Monday, Sept. 24. Doors open at 5 p.m., panel discussion at 6, featured speaker at 7

Where: Morgridge Commons/Colorado Mountain College (above the Glenwood Springs Library)

Tickets: $25 (includes food and beverages) online here, or at the door.