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Blue Zones

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2008

Author and explorer Dan Buettner spent seven years traveling the globe on a mission to unlock the secrets behind longevity. He learned first-hand from the people who have lived the longest how they have managed to do so.

What Is A Blue Zone?
A Blue Zone is a place in the world where higher percentages of the population live astoundingly long lives. Residents of a Blue Zone are able to retain health and vitality well into their 80s, 90s, and 100s.

Where Are These Blue Zones?
The Barbargia region in Sardinia, Italy (where the Blue Zone phenomenon primarily affects men); Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California.

How Have These Cultures Achieved Longevity?
In Sardinia, most of the centenarians drink goat's milk for breakfast, walk 6 miles a day, love to work, and spend most of their day in the pastures. Also, their sense of humor helps them shed stress, and their devotion to family provides invaluable support.

In Okinawa, although the people do suffer from diseases, they experience them at far lower rates than Americans: a fifth the rate of cardiovascular disease, a fourth the rate of breast and prostate cancer, and a third the rate of dementia.

A Costa Rican man at age 60 has about twice the chance of reaching age 90 as does a man living in the United States, France, or even Japan. They believe in God, have a strong work ethic, and possess a zeal for their family. Their diet consists largely of corn, beans, pork, garden vegetables, and fruit. Interestingly, unlike many places in Latin America, they have a more relaxed and flexible attitude toward sex and marriage.

In Loma Linda, California, for the past half-century, members of the Seventh Day Adventist community, whose faith endorses healthy living, lead the nation in the longest life expectancy. They are vegetarians, eat frequent servings of nuts, avoid alcohol, eat an early dinner, and focus on the Sabbath every week when they devote time to their faith and family.

Individuals Who Have Lived the Longest
In Sardinia, Tonino Tola is 86. He's a shepherd who drinks wine mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and again with friends at night. His work ethic and love of family and the fact that he is profoundly religious contribute to his longevity.

In Okinawa, Ushi is 104. She wakes every morning at 6 a.m., drinks miso soup and green tea, spends two or three hours in the garden to reduce stress, eats lunch with her children and grandchildren, takes a nap, and at 5 she sits around with lifelong friends and drinks sake. She has a light dinner and is in bed soon after sunset, sleeping seven hours a day.

In Nicoya, Abuela Panchita is 102. She has woken up at 4 a.m. most of her life and has a great "longevity diet" consisting of tortillas and beans. Her son, Tommy, who is 80 years old, comes to see her every morning at 7.

In Loma Linda, Marge Jetton is 102. She was married for almost 75 years. When her husband died, she went into mourning, but then decided to do some volunteer work for 70-year-olds (she calls them "old folks"). The point here is the power of purpose -- we think we can associate this with a decade of good life.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Dan Buettner for sharing the secrets behind longevity and to National Geographic Books for giving everyone in our studio audience a copy of his new book, "The Blue Zone."

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