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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 the 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 before 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 sections 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 granddaughter 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 years 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 boards 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 expectancy 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 connect 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 you