As a sequel to Bill’s question, “Who wants to live to be 100?”, I just finished reading “Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner, whom I heard at the AMDA conference in March. Buettner was part of a team that studied areas of the world where people live longer, healthier lives.
The team looked in on residents of Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda CA (Seventh Day Adventists), and on the Nicoyan Peninsula of Costa Rica. Each had its own unique culture, but there were many common threads. The stories (and the elder profiles) are fascinating. A woman over 100 climbing an apple tree to fetch a snack, a man in his 90’s effortlessly beating Dan (a half-century his junior) at arm-wrestling. A 90+ year-old heart surgeon building his own fence on days when he’s not helping with bypass surgery.
Even though the book jacket displays an endorsement from “anti-ager” Dr. Oz, the point of the book is NOT that people can live forever, or even extend our life span by decades, as some claim. The point is that there can be a modest but significant (years) extension of life, and more important, of disability-free life, which we can largely control through our life choices.
I won’t spoil all the “answers” for you, but here are a few: First, move naturally. You don’t need to run marathons, but put yourself in the position where you must walk every day. Second, eat less. The residents of Okinawa say “Hara hachi bu” before meals, meaning, “May I only eat 80% of what I need”. They follow the concept of eating, not until you are full, but only until you are no longer hungry. All of the cultures also had diets rich in fruits and vegetables and very low in meat consumption.
A third point is to maintain what the Okinawans call “ikigai” — a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Social capital is also critical, and it is interesting that you can affect your health by hanging around with the right people. Studies have shown that if you associate with friends who have healthy habits, you will too, and the opposite is true as well.
In fact, a disturbing discovery was that fast food and other lifestyle changes are rapidly reversing longevity in these “blue zones” for the younger generations who live there.
There’s lots more. Get the book! Here’s Dan: