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The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest Paperback – April 21, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 275 customer reviews

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Book Description
With the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are that you may live up to a decade longer. What’s the prescription for success? National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner has traveled the globe to uncover the best strategies for longevity found in the Blue Zones: places in the world where higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives. And in this dynamic book he discloses the recipe, blending this unique lifestyle formula with the latest scientific findings to inspire easy, lasting change that may add years to your life.

You’ll meet a 94-year-old farmer and self-confessed "ladies man" in Costa Rica, a 102-year-old grandmother in Okinawa a 102-year-old Sardinian who hikes at least six miles a day, and others. By observing their lifestyles, Buettner's team has identified critical everyday choices.

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Dan Buettner

Question: In your book, you identify the "Power 9": nine habits or behaviors all Blue Zone populations have in common. Could you talk about one or two that the average American takes most for granted?

Dan Buettner: Many Americans exercise too hard. The life expectancy of our species, for 99.9% of human history, was about 30 years. The fact that medicine has pushed life expectancy to age 78 doesn't mean our bodies were designed for three-quarters of a century of pounding. Muscles tear, joints wear out, backs go out. The world's longest-lived people tend to do regular, low intensity physical activity, like walking with friends, gardening and playing with their children. The key is to do something light every day.

I also think the trend toward isolation is a mistake. Drive down any American street at 9:00 pm and you can see the greenish glow of the television or the computer in people's window. We've become an increasingly isolated society. Fifteen years ago, the average American had three good friends. Now it's down to two. We know that isolation shaves good years off of your life. In The Blue Zones, I advocate reconnecting with your religious community and proactively building friendships with the right people.

Question: Is there something about the physical landscape that contributes to an area being a Blue Zone, or can people make their own personal Blue Zones, regardless of where they live?

Dan Buettner: Staying young and living long is mostly a function of your environment... and the good news is that to a great extent, we each have control over that environment. In the Blue Zones around the world, people live in places where walking is the main means of transportation, where the sun shines strong all year long so they get enough vitamin D; where they have established social norms that bring people together in supportive groups or clubs. The Blue Zones book shows you how to take about two hours and set up your home, your social life and your work place to help you get up to 10 more good years out of life (and look younger along the way!).

Question: Are Blue Zones about living longer, or living better?

Dan Buettner: Both. The same things that get you to a healthy 100 get you there better. The Blue Zones offers a completely different way to think about longevity and youth maintenance. If you look at the Power9—the common denominators of the longest-lived people—you see that they tend to put their families first, they belong to a faith-based community and they know their sense of purpose. All of these behaviors are associated with 3-6 years of life (which is better than any diet can promise) and they're good years. In other words, the same Blue Zone tenets that will help you get to a healthy age 90 will help ensure those years are vital and enriching.

Question: If considering all nine habits at once seems overwhelming, what's the first step someone could take toward living a more enriching, longer life?

Dan Buettner: The good news is that the Power9 is an a la carte menu: by no means do you have to do all nine to gain more good years out of life. In fact, do six of them and get about 90% of the benefit. The most important thing you can do is building your own Right Tribe. Which is to say, all of the world's longest-lived people were born into, or consciously chose to associate with, the right people. The Framingham Studies show us that if your three best friends are obese, there's a 50% better chance that you'll be obese. The reverse is true too. If you dine with people who eat healthy food, you're more likely to eat healthy food; if the friends you spend the most time with play a sport, you're more likely to join them. As your mother said, "You're known by the company you keep." You're also likely to resemble them.

Review

"The Blue Zones is one of the most important and engaging stories you will ever read! With Dan Buettner as your intrepid narrator, you will visit locations where people are living the longest, healthiest lives anywhere on the planet. More importantly, you will learn how to immediately incorporate those lessons from faraway places into your very own life. When I hosted the documentary Chasing Life, Dan Buettner was the man we looked to for advice. Now, you have all of it at your fingertips. Inside: the secret to a long life."—Sanjay Gupta, M.D.

"Eat less. Make family a priority. Banish stress. I figured it should be no problem to follow most of the common-sense tips that Dan Buettner outlines in The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest."New York Times

"A must-read if you want to stay young! Buettner teaches us the secrets of the world's longest-lived cultures and how they can turn back your biological clock."—Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.

"This book gives you practical tips for living long and well—the essential components of lifestyles in those areas of the world where healthy aging is the rule. I recommend it."—Andrew Weil, M.D.

"Dan Buettner takes us on a journey to explore the secrets of longevity and in so doing introduces us to a world of joy in aging...at 91, this is very good news!"—Walter Cronkite.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426204000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426204005
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (275 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Buettner is a National Geographic Explorer, a writer, and the founder of Quest Network, Inc. His 2005 cover story for National Geographic magazine, "Secrets of Living Longer," was a finalist for the National Magazine Award. He has appeared on CNN, David Letterman, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, and the Today Show to discuss his Blue Zone research and has delivered more than 500 keynote speeches over the last 10 years.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Back in the 50's, it was the Hunza people who the were exemplars of longlived folk in popular literature about healthy living. The Hunza valley is popularly believed to be the inspiration for Shangri-la, the place of the immortals in James Hilton's novel "Lost Horizon." The Hunza live in high altitude, eat whole grains, and this was the model for much of health food lore in the 50's. Then there were the Georgians, famous in the 80's, whose long life was attributed to the consumption of yogurt. Now it's the Okinawans, Mediterraneans and Costa Ricans who have the secret of long life.

The "Blue Zone" is how these areas with a high percentage of centenarians is designated. In this book, the author combines lessons from various zones around the world. In this way, not only are the different cultures described, but the commonalities are easily derived from the chapters. And they are hardly surprising, but it's great to have them all in one book because you can see that it's not yogurt or fermented mare's milk or a diet rich in tofu and fermented bean paste and fish--it's healthy habits. They are pretty much (no surprise here), a diet including plenty of fresh, unchilled water, lots of vegetables, limited meat and fats and sweets, and the habit of hard farm work or walking and exercise and having a richly entwined family life and close group of friends--a support system. (Doesn't the Bible say "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you." Exodus 20:12)

This book is excellent not only for the interesting anthropological information, but because you can see that long life is really something that is a matter of habits and practices, not just eating a bowl of yogurt or using olive oil instead of butter.
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Format: Hardcover
Published by the National Geographic made this book a reliable read for me. It is so full of valuable information, including the website [...] mentioned in the book on page 228 where you can do the Vitality Compass. And one of the many wise pieces of advise given (page 213_ deals with learning to move or be active without thinking about it.

Liked this, because I see so many people over the age of seventy where I live out walking for walking enjoyment, not for any physical fitness routine. Same with going to the gym. People I know simply see everyday movement as natural and healthy.

Lesson Five: Purpose Now Take time to see the big picture is something we need to start teaching our young. The whole idea of seeing a purpose however small in getting up in the morning.

Lesson Seven: Belong Participate in a spiritual community shouldn't turn anyone off. Fact is their research shows that belonging to a community where one thinks about something bigger, and is around people who believe in prayer and positive purpose live not only longer but healthier and happier lives. They mention Dr Gary Frasers book Diet, Life Expectancy and Chronic Disease which is a good book.

Also like the information on diet and how healthy eating doesn't mean boring or not fun. Simply eating less, and not so much meat can make a difference they say and I agree. They do NOT say never eat meat. Which reminded me of the exchange students we have had in our home whose eyes would grow big when they would see the steaks on the BBQ at peoples homes, and then see a steak plopped on their plate. This was a shock to them, because no matter if they were from Asia or Scandinavia, meat was more of a condiment, served in small servings, rather that THE meal.
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Format: Hardcover
Let's begin with content unmentioned by previous reviewers. In the United States, only about one male per 20,000 reaches age 100 (p. 44). The almost-daily consumption of nuts is important to good health and long life (e. g., p. 130). On the other hand, supplementation with DHEA, human growth hormone, or melatonin is questionable and probably harmful (p. 13). Friendly intestinal bacteria are important, and these are thwarted by processed foods, excessive consumption of meat, surgery, etc. (p. 92).

The geographical format of this book takes the reader to "Blue Zones" (areas with high concentrations of long-lived people) all over the world. One of them is right in the USA--the Seventh Day Adventist community 60 miles east of Los Angeles. Now consider the Okinawans. Though not Japanese themselves, they had been conquered by the Japanese, and forced to fight against the Americans. Many Okinawans, frightened by tales of American atrocities, committed suicide upon the approach of the American forces. Instead, the Americans helped the Okinawans. Ironically, however, the Okinawans were subsequently hurt by the Americans--but in a totally unexpected and unintentional way. Americans built a lot of fast-food joints, and the health of the Okinawans--especially the younger ones--began to decline.

This book not only provides suggestions for extending one's lifespan, but also gives the reader an invaluable set of geography lessons. In the end, centenarians really cannot tell us why they lived to an age of 100 or more (p. xxi). But this book is fascinating nonetheless. There is a bibliography at the end of the book for further reading on the topics of longevity, better health, stress-free living, etc. The citations come from magazine articles, books, and scientific and medical journals.
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