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Author Dan Bruettner had been working at National Geographic for a few years when, in 2000 he and other staff members stumbled upon a World Health Organization finding that showed Okinawa, Japan had the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world.
They developed a system to distill out what the community was doing that would explain that longevity.
The team travelled to five areas with long life expectencies--what they call Blue Zones: Okinawa, Ikaria, Greece, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Sardinia, Italy and Loma Linda, California, which has a large population of 7thDay Adventists.
They found nine common denominators.
"When you look at all five of the cultures you find that they all eat mostly plant-based diets, maybe meat five times per month, that they all move naturally. In other words, they're not thinking about exercise the way we do, but they live in environments that are constantly nudging them. And what supports the right way to eat and the right way to move is really an ecosystem or scaffolding--having a strong sense of purpose, belonging to some faith and really surrounding themselves with the right people," he said.
Bruettner says communities need to make it easier for people to be healthy. He point to Ikaria, Greece where people eat lots of beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and a little bit of wine. But he says they’re not purposely eating healthfully…
"They're not thinking, 'I'm on the Mediterranean diet, and I'm gonna live a long time.' What's going on here is the cheapest food, the most accessible food, the foods their recipes make taste the best, the foods that are most easily prepared in their kitchens and what their friend's eating all happens to be the right diet for lowering heart disease and maximizing life expectencies," he said.
The result of the study is the Blue Zones Project, which encourages individuals and communities to take steps toward healthier and happier lives.
The project works with communities to help them encourage and promote healthier eating and more physical activity without people having to think too much about it.
Buettner will speak in Springfield this morning at 7:30 with business leaders about Blue Zones principles.
He’ll talk about the Blue Zones way of life with the public during a free program this afternoon (6/11) at the O’Reilly Family Event Center at Drury University. The event begins at 3 with a book signing and health fair, and the presentation “Blue Zones: the Secrets of Living Longer” is at 4.
For more information about the Blue Zones Project bluezones.com.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.