How to live to be 100+ - Dan Buettner

Sharing buttons:

something called the Danish twin study

established that only about 10% of how

long the average person lives within

certain biological limits is dictated by

our genes the other 90% is dictated by

our lifestyle so the premise of Blue

Zone is if we can find the optimal

lifestyle of longevity we can come up

with a de facto formula for longevity

but if you ask the average American what

the optimal formula of longevity is they

probably couldn't tell you they've

probably heard of the South Beach diet

or the Atkins diet and you have the USDA

food pyramid there's what Oprah tells us

there's what dr. oz tells us the fact of

the matter is there's a lot of confusion

around what really helps us live longer

better should you be running marathons

or doing yoga should you eat organic

meats or should you be eating tofu when

it comes to supplements should you be

taking them how about these hormones or

is vera and does purpose plan to it

spirituality and how about how we

socialize what our approach to finding

longevity was to team up with National

Geographic and the National Institute on

Aging to find the for demographically

confirmed areas that are geographically

defined and then bring a team of experts

in there to methodically go through

exactly what these people - to distill

down the cross-cultural distillation and

at the end of this I'm going to tell you

what that distillation is but first I'd

like to debunk some common myths when it

comes to longevity and the first myth is

if you try really hard you can live to

be 100 false the problem is only about

one out of 5,000 people in America are

live to be a hundred year your chances

are very low even though it's the

fastest growing demographic in America

it's hard to reach 100 the problem is

that we are not programmed for longevity

we are programmed for something called

procreative success I love that word it

reminds me of my college days

biologists term procreative success to

to mean the age where you have children

and then another generation the age when

your children have children after that

the effect of evolution completely

dissipates if you're a mammal if you're

a rat or an elephant or a human be in

between it's the same story so to make

it to age 100 you not only have to have

had a very good lifestyle you also have

to have won the genetic lottery the

second myth is there are treatments that

can help slow reverse or even stop aging

false when you think of it there's 99

things that can age us deprived your

brain of oxygen for just a few minutes

those brain cells die they never come

back play tennis too hard on your knees

ruin your cartilage that cartilage never

comes back our arteries can clog our

brands can gunk up with plaque and we

can get Alzheimer's there's just too

many things to go wrong our bodies have

35 trillion cells trillion with the T

we're talking national debt numbers here

those cells turn themselves over once

every eight years and every time they

turn themselves over there's some damage

and that damage builds up and it builds

up exponentially it's a little bit like

the days when we all had Beatles albums

or Eagles albums and we make a copy of

that on a cassette tape and then let our

friends copy that cassette tape and

pretty soon with successive generations

that tape sounds like garbage

well the same things happened to

ourselves that's why a 65 year old

person is aging at a rate of about 125

times faster than a 12 year old person

so if there's nothing you can do to slow

your aging or stop your aging what am I

doing here well the fact of the matter

is the best science tells us that the

capacity of the human body my body your

body is about 90 years a little bit more

for a women but life expectancy in this

country is only 78 so somewhere along

the line we're leaving about 12 good

years on the table


are yours that we could get and they

research shows that they could that they

would be yours largely free of chronic

disease heart a heart disease cancer and

diabetes we think the best way to get

these missing yours is to look at the

cultures around the world that are

actually experiencing them areas where

people are living to age 100 at rates up

to 10 times greater than we are areas

where the life expectancy is an extra

dozen years and the rate of middle-aged

mortality is a fraction of what it is in

this country we found our first blue

zone about 125 miles off the coast of

Italy on the island of Sardinia and not

the entire eye on the islands about 1.4

million people but only up in the

highlands an area called the Norrell

province and here we have this area

where men live the longest about ten

times more centenarians than we have

here in America and this is a place

where people not only reach age 100 they

do so with extraordinary vigor places

where 102 year olds still ride their

bike to work chop wood and can beat a

guy 60 years younger than them in their

history actually goes back to about the

time of Christ it's actually a Bronze

Age culture that's been isolated because

the land is so infertile they're largely

Shepherds which occasions regular low

intensity physical activity their diet

is mostly plant-based accentuated with

foods that they can carry into the

fields they came up with an unleavened

whole-wheat bread called nota música

made out of durum wheat a type of cheese

made from grass-fed animals so it's hot

the cheeses high in omega-3 fatty acids

instead of omega-6 fatty acids from

corn-fed animals and a type of wine that

has three times the level of polyphenols

than any known wine in the world

it's called Cana now but the real secret

I think lies more in the way that they

organize their society and one of the

most salient elements of the Sardinian

society is how they treat older people

you ever notice here in America social

equity seems to peak at about age 24

just look at the advertisement here in

Sardinia the older you get the more

equity you have the more wisdom you're

celebrated for you go into the bar

sardinia instead of seeing the Sports

Illustrated swimsuit calendar you see

the centenarian of the month calendar

this as it turns out is not only good

for your aging parents to keep them

close to the family it imparts about

four to six years of extra life

expectancy research shows it's also good

for the children of those families who

have lower rates of mortality and lower

rates of disease that's called the

grandmother effect we found our second

Blue Zone on the other side of the

planet about eight hundred miles south

of Tokyo on the archipelago of Okinawa

Okinawa is actually 161 small islands

and in the northern part of the main

island this is ground zero for world

longevity this is a place where the

oldest living female population is found

it's a place where people have the

longest disability free life expectancy

in the world they have what we want they

live a long time and tend to die in

their sleep very quickly and often I can

tell you after sex they live about seven

good years longer than the average

American five times as many centenarians

as we have in America one-fifth the rate

of colon and breast cancer big killers

here in America and 1/6 the rate of

cardiovascular disease and the fact that

this culture has yielded these numbers

suggest strongly they have something to

teach us what do they do once again a

plant-based diet full of vegetables with

lots of color in them and they eat about

eight times as much tofu as Americans do

more significant than what they eat it's

how they eat it they have all kinds of

little strategies to keep from

overeating which as you know is a big

problem here in America a few of the

strategies we observe they eat off of

smaller plates they tend to eat fewer

calories at every city instead of

serving family style where you can sort

of mindlessly eat as you're talking they

serve at the counter put the food away

and then bring it to the table they also

have a three thousand-year-old addicts

which i think is the greatest sort of

diet suggestion ever invented is

invented by Confucius and that diet is

known as the Hara Hachi Bou diet it's

simply a little saying these people say


to remind them to stop eating when their

stomach is 20 percent full it takes

about a half hour for that full feeling

to go travel from your belly to your

brain and by remembering to stop at 80

percent it helps keep you from doing

that very thing but like Sardinia

Okinawa as a few social constructs that

we can associate with longevity we know

that isolation kills 15 years ago the

average American had three good friends

we're down to one and a half right now

if you were lucky enough to be born in

Okinawa you were born into a system

where you automatically have a half a

dozen friends with whom you travel

through life they call it a moai and if

you're in my you're expected to share

the bounty if you if you encounter luck

and if things go bad a child gets sick a

parent dies you always have somebody who

has your back this particular moai these

five ladies have been together for

ninety seven years their average age is

a hundred and two typically in America

we've divided our adult life up into two


there's our work life where we're

productive and then one day boom we

retire and typically that is meant

retiring to the easy-chair or going down

to Arizona to play golf in the Okinawan

language there's not even a word for

retirement instead there's one word that

imbues your entire life and that word is

iki guy and roughly translated it means

the reason for which you wake up in the

morning and for this 102 year-old Crotty

master his iki guy was carrying forth

this martial art for this 100 year old

fisherman it was continuing to catch

fish for his family three times a week

and this is a question with the National

Institute on Aging actually gave us a

questionnaire to give these centenarians

and one of the questions they were very

culturally astute two people put the

questionnaire one of the questions was

what is your iki guy instantly knew why

they woke up in the morning for this

hundred and two year old woman or iki

guy was simply her great-great-great


two girls separated an age by a hundred

and one and a half years and I asked her

what it felt like

to hold a great-great-great

granddaughter and she put her head back

and she said it feels like leaping into

heaven I thought that was a wonderful

thought my editor at Geographic wanted

me to find America's Blue Zone and for a

while we looked on the prairies of

Minnesota where actually there's a very

high proportion of centenarians but

that's because all the young people left

so we turned to the data again and we

found America's longest-lived population

among the seventh-day adventists

concentrated in and around Loma Linda

California Adventists are conservative

Methodists they celebrate their Sabbath

from sunset on Friday till sunset on

Saturday 24-hour sanctuary and time they

call it and they follow five little

habits that convey some extraordinary

longevity comparatively speaking in

America here life expectancy for the

average woman is 80 but for an Adventist

woman their life expectancy is 89 and

the difference is even more pronounced

among men who are expected to live about

11 years longer than their American

counterparts now this is a study that

followed about 70,000 people for 30


sterling study and I think it's

supremely illustrates the premise of

this Blue Zone project this is a

heterogeneous community it's white black

Hispanic Asian the only thing they have

in common

our set of very small lifestyle habits

that they follow ritualistically for

most of their lives they take their diet

directly from the Bible Genesis chapter

1 verse 26 where God talks about legumes

and seeds and on one more stands about

green plants ostensibly missing his meat

they take the sanctuary in time very

serious for 24 hours every week no

matter how busy they are how stressed

out they are at work where the kids need

to be driven they stop everything and

they focus on their God your social

network and then

hardwired right in the religion our

nature walks and the power of this is

not that it's done occasionally the

power is it's done every week for a

lifetime none of its hard

none of it cost money Adventists also

tend to hang out with other Adventists

so if you go to an Adventist party you

don't see people swollen Jim Beam or

rolling a joint instead they are talking

about their next nature walk exchanging

recipes and yes they pray but they

influence each other in profound and

measurable ways this is a culture that

has healed and Ellsworth Wareham

Ellsworth Wareham is 97 years old he's a

multi-millionaire yet when a contractor

wanted six thousand dollars to build a

privacy fence he severed that kind of

money I'll do it myself so for the next

three days he was out shoveling cement

and hauling poles around and predictably

perhaps on the fourth day he ended up in

the operating room but not as the guy on

the table the guy doing open-heart

surgery at 97 he still does 20

open-heart surgeries every month and

Rawlings 103 years old now an active

cowboy starts this morning with the swim

and on the weekends he likes to put onto


throw up rooster tails and then Marge

dat on marge is a hundred and for her

grandson actually lives in the Twin

Cities here she starts your day with

lifting weights she rides her bicycle

and then she gets in a rootbeer colored

1994 Cadillac Seville and tears down the

San Bernardino freeway where she still

volunteers for seven different

organizations I've been on 19 hardcore

expeditions I'm probably the only person

you'll ever meet who rode his bicycle

across the Sahara Desert without

sunscreen but I'll tell you there was no

adventure more harrowing than riding

shotgun with Marge Jetton a stranger's a

friend I haven't met yet you'd say to me

so what are the common denominators in

these in these three cultures what are

the things that they all do and we

managed to boil it down to

nine fact we've done two more blues on

expeditions since this and these combin

in denominators hold true and the first

one and I'm about to utter a heresy here

none of them exercise at least the way

we think of exercise instead they set up

their lives so that they're constantly

nudged into physical activity these

hundred-year-old Okinawa and women are

getting up and down off the ground they

sit on the floor 30 or 40 times a day

Sardinians live in vertical houses up

and down the stairs every trip to the

store or to church or to the friend's

house occasions a walk they don't have

any conveniences there's not a button to

push to do yard work or house war if

they want to mix up a cake they're doing

it by hand that's physical activity that

burns calories just as much as going

down the treadmill does when they do do

intentional physical activity it's

things they enjoy they tend to walk the

only proven way to stave off cognitive

decline and they all tend to have a

garden they know how to set up their

life in the right way so they have the

right outlook each of these cultures

take down to downshift the Sardinians

pray the seventh-day adventists pray the

Okinawans have this ancestor veneration

but when you're in a hurry or stressed

out that triggers something called the

inflammatory response which is

associated with everything from all

higher Alzheimer's disease to

cardiovascular disease when you slow

down for 15 minutes a day you turn that

inflammatory state into a more

anti-inflammatory state they have

vocabulary for sense of purpose a key

guy like the Okinawans you know the two

most dangerous years in your life are

the year you're born because of infant

mortality and the year you retire if

people know their sense of purpose and

they activate it in their life that's

worth about seven years of extra life


there's no longevity diet instead these

people drink a little bit every day not

a hard sell to the American population

they tend to eat a plant-based diet

doesn't mean they don't eat meat but

lots of beans and nuts and they have

strategies to keep from overeating

little things that nudge them away from

the table at the right time and then the

foundation of all this is how they


they put their families first take care

of their children and their aging

parents they all tend to belong to a

faith-based community which is worth

between four and fourteen extra years of

life expectancy if you do it four times

a month and the biggest thing here is

they also belong to the right tribe they

were either born into or they

proactively surrounded themselves with

the right people we know from the

Framingham studies that if your three

best friends are obese there's a 50%

better chance that you'll be overweight

so if you hang out with unhealthy people

that's going to have a measurable impact

over time instead of here if your

friends idea of recreation is physical

activity bowling or playing hockey or

biking or garni if your friends drink a

little but not too much and they eat

right and they're engaged and they're

trusting and trustworthy that is going

to have the biggest impact over time

diets don't work no diet in the history

of the world has ever worked for more

than two percent of population exercise

programs usually start in January

they're usually done by October when it

comes to longevity

there is no short-term fix and a pill or

anything else but when you think about

it your friends our long-term adventures

and therefore perhaps the most

significant thing you can do to add more

years to your life and life to your

years thank you very much