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The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest Hardcover – March 25, 2008
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“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.
“The Blue Zone 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.
“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.
“After a lifetime in the health and beauty business, I had the feeling that I knew most everything about aging gracefully. Then along comes Blue Zones, which is a valuable guide to help us achieve longer healthier lives. Each engaging encounter reveals simple, healthy choices that everyone can incorporate into their lives no matter where they live. Thank you, Dan Buettner!”
“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!”
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.
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Level – Easy read, medium length, but reads quickly
Blue zones, so named because while researching the first one, a blue circle was drawn around they area under discussion, are areas in the world where people live the longest. Not only do they live longer, but live better as centenarians (100 year olds) then many people much younger do in other parts of the world.
The book takes us through the four blue zones, and shares interviews, history, diets and other fact about the life of the people who live there. The four blue zones are – Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda (California) and Costa Rica. They have since discovered another one in Greece.
The final chapter gives the tips they found in common in all the blue zones so that you can create your own ‘blue zone.’
• Move Naturally – Everyone studied for the book was extremely active. They walked miles a day, gardened, etc. His point is no one has to run marathons or become powerlifter, you just need to move often.
• Hara Hachi Bu – A phrase said by the Okinawans before every meal reminding them to eat until they feel 80% full. Calorie restriction has been shown to be very important in longevity.
• Plant Slant – With the exception of the Adventist in Loma Linda, no one was a vegetarian. However, they all ate meet rarely, anything from once a week to only a few times a year.
• Grapes of Life – Wine. It plays a big role for the Sardinians and the Okinawans drink Sake, but the others consumed no alcohol. Either way, studies have shown a drink or two a day, especially of wine is beneficial to your health.
• Purpose Now – Having a sense of purpose, or a reason to get up in the morning, something that drives you.
• Down Shift – taking time to relax, meditate or slow down and enjoy life.
• Belong –To a community, but a part of something bigger than yourself. Religious communities, regardless of which one, have been shown to help people live longer.
• Loved Ones First – Relatedly, take time to cultivate relationships and spend time with friends and family. Prioritizing social life is something we really fail at in America.
• Right Tribe – People who share common goals and healthy lifestyle. Many studies have shown that who you hang out with has a huge impact on your lifestyle. Have an obese friend increases your chances of becoming overweight. Seek people who have the same above traits in mind.
Things like this are utterly fascinating to me. Both of my granddads are currently 91 years old and show only a few signs of stopping. Much of their life has included most of the traits. Modern America has us moving further and further away from these things. We eat lots of cheap, processed food. We don’t spend much time with friends or family. We do not rest often. We don’t move. I’m currently writing this at my desk, I spend far too many hours a day sitting at a desk and wondering how I can move.
Adopting as much of the Blue Zone lifestyle will not only help you to live longer, but the time you do spend will be better and healthier.
The book gives many specific examples of centenarians, how they lived, their activities, diet, life style. And it gives many examples of research and theories being studied to understand how these people’s lives reached the long healthy lives they have enjoyed, yet, it is not overly technical and very readable.
Most of the nine big summary factors were the ones that we've all heard a hundred times before -- get regular moderate exercise every day, eat a simple diet low on the food chain (grains, beans, veggies, fruits, and nut), avoid unfavorable types of stress, maintain a positive outlook on life, find a purpose to motivate you and give meaning to your life, enjoy good social times with family and friends, and hang around with people who will influence you positively toward favorable longevity lifestyle choices.
I was a bit surprised at the longevity importance of having some kind of regular spiritual or religious connection to something bigger than yourself, typically a religious community of some kind. Apparently following some kind of religious lifestyle guidelines will help you to live longer if you follow them, help you to feel better about yourself (and even happier, see The Happiness Hypothesis book), and help you to share and support those values with other people in the group (again, the desirable social connections help longevity).
All in all, a book that everyone should read, IMHO.