Book Review of _The Blue Zones_: by Dr. Gregg Carter

Dan Buttner’s The Blue Zones (National Geographic Society, 2008) is a great read for those wanting to keep up with the science of aging but not wanting to read the associated academic journals. In the early 2000s, the National Geographic Society sent a team of longevity experts to those 4 slender geographic areas of the world where people are much more likely to attain the age of 100, in good health, than all other places on earth. The areas are Loma Linda, CA, USA (virtually all 7th-Day Adventists); the Nicoyan peninsula in Costa Rica; the interior hill country of Sardinia; and the northern interior of Okinawa. Though difficult to parse out, the teams found commonalities among these 4 Blue Zones and assessed that longevity was a function of these factors:

·genetics (but only about 25% of the equation, as shown through studies of identical twins);

·diet and exercise (about 25% of the equation—virtually all of the centenarians they studied were lean, active, had a mainly plant-based diet; and all ate until they were not hungry—as opposed to eating until they were full [a significant difference … as the former involves relatively small meals]); their active lives involved being outside in the sunshine on a daily basis [part of the effects of the sun on longevity is attributed to its being a rich source of vit. D, which has recently been linked to a variety of diseases, including cancer: the less vit. D, the more likely to incur disease]; and

·sociology / psychology (50%).

Regarding the last of these, they all were embedded in respectful, caring social networks—involving family and friendships—and they had spent a lifetime investing themselves in these relationships, with their time, energy, and emotion. They all lived for the day—and did not fret about not being invited to a party last week, or whether they would be invited to such-and-such-a party week after next. They all had a good sense of humor—that tended toward the sardonic (indeed, “sardonic” comes from the type of humor found on the island of Sardinia). They all had a purposeful life—and could tell you in an instant what that purpose(s) was (were). They all were spiritual—they all took time at least once a week, more commonly daily, to reflect on the gift of life, how wondrous it can be; none prayed for a “long life,” but most arose with a simple prayer each morning—“thank you God, for another day.”

The Blue Zones project still continues, with a new “Blue Zone” recently identified as the Greek island of Icaria:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103744881

To find out more about the findings of the Blue Zones project, see:

http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/2009/06/live-longer-dan-buettner-text

To your health!
Gregg Carter

http://web.bryant.edu/~gcarter/

 

Frank Shearer at age 99, who has been water skiing since age 30

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