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The Blue Zones1 
Explorer and author Dan Buettner had come up with the idea to reverse engineer longevity. His team discovered 5 “Blue Zones” around the world where people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.

  • Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy - mountainous highlands of inner Sardinia with world's highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece - Aegean island with one of the world's lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia.
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica - another area with one of the world's lowest rates for middle age mortality and second highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Loma Linda, California - Highest concentration of Seventh Day Adventists - on average, they live 10 years longer than their North American counterparts.
  • Okinawa, Japan - Females over age 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.

They found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents shared nine specific characteristics that contribute to residents living longer better.

1. Move Naturally. The world's longest-lived people don't pump iron or join gyms. They grow gardens themselves (no gardeners) and don't use machines for house or yard work. Because of their lifestyle and environment, they move without thinking about it.

2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it "Ikigai" and the Nicoyans call it "plan de vida". They both translate to "why I wake up in the morning". A sense of purpose has been found to be worth up to 7 years of extra life expectancy.

3. Down Shift. Stress leads to chronic inflammation which is associated with every age-related disease. While the people in the Blue Zones experience stress, they have developed routines to shed or significantly reduce stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour! 

4. 80% Rule. "Hara hachi bu" is a 2,500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals by Okinawans to remind them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. That additional 20% could be the difference between gaining or losing weight. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don't eat any more for the rest of the day.

5. Plant Slant. Beans and lentils are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat - mostly pork - is eaten, on average, five times per month. Serving sizes are 3 -4 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards.

6. Wine @ 5. People in all Blue Zones, except Adventists, drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. Drink 1-2 glasses daily with friends and/or with food.

7. Belong. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4 - 14 years of life expectancy. Denomination doesn't seem to matter.

8. Loved Ones First. Blue Zone centenarians put their families first. Aging parents and grandparents are kept nearby or in the home (which also leads to lower disease and mortality rates of children in the home). They commit to life partners (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children time and love.

9. Right Tribe. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness and loneliness are contagious. The world's longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors. For example, Okinawans created "moais" or groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. 

1Dan Buettner Power 9 (R) Reverse Engineering Longevity April 9, 2014