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Blue Zones - 9 Secrets to Live a Long Life

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Author Dan Buettner says many people can have a longer, healthier life if they follow some of the habits and values observed among populations where the residents have long lives:

Blue Zones (National Geographic) adds a segment on Ikaria, Greece, a 99-square-mile island 30 miles off the coast of Turkey. After the first edition was published in 2008, he says Greek researchers contacted him about Ikaria.

"They gave us the tip" that the island has 10 times as many siblings over the age of 90 compared with any other place in Europe," says Buettner, 52. "Then we got a grant from National Geographic to go there. The first expedition was to look at birth and death records. The second expedition was to tease out what's going on."

They confirmed the longevity numbers and found Ikarians also have less cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and dementia than other parts of Europe, and men outlive women.

In addition to eating a healthy Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, healthy fats and fish and seafood), there are other key habits and values embraced by the Ikaria inhabitants. He has seen those same habits in the other four Blue Zones: Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Okinawa, Japan. The Blue Zones get their name from the blue pen used to draw circles on a map locating the areas.

He' d like to draw a big blue circle around the entire USA. "I think this can really apply to Middle America,'' he says. He lives in Minneapolis and was walking while being interviewed on the phone for this story.

The nine lessons:

1. Move naturally. Don't do marathons or pump iron; work around the house, garden, walk, cycle, walk when talking on the phone.

2. Know your purpose. Have a reason for waking up in the morning.

3. Kick back. Find ways to shed stress, whether it's praying, napping or going to happy hour.

4. Eat less. Stop eating when you are 80% full.

5. Eat less meat. Beans are a cornerstone of most centenarians' diets.

6. Drink in moderation. Only the Seventh-day Adventists in California didn't have one to two glasses a day.

7. Have faith. Denomination doesn't seem to matter, but attending faith-based services (4 times a month) does.

8. Power of love. 
Put families first, including committing to a partner and keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby.

9. Stay social. Build a social network that supports healthy behaviors.

A lot of these are common sense.

Amazing how few of them Americans consistently do.

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