Dan Buettner is a National Geographic writer and explorer.
Only 10% of what it takes to live to 100 is genetic. He first looks at some longevity myths:
- If you try hard, you can live to be 100. False. Humans are designed to die – evolution only allows us to be old enough to procreate.
- There are treatments that can stop or reverse aging. False. As we get older, our cells fail to replicate, damage accumulates.
So there are body-imposed limits – roughly 90 years is achievable, but the average American lives to be 78. So we could get those 12 years back with minimal loss of life quality.
Dan worked with National Geographic to look at areas where people frequently live to be 100.
- Sardinian highlands (off Italy) for example have 10 times the US rate of centenarians. There are a number of lifestyle and dietary differences, but also cultural. Dan focuses on the way they treat the elderly – they show great respect for their wisdom.
- Okinawa archipelago (Japan) – the oldest female population, and the oldest disability-free life expectancy in the world. Lower rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and average age of 85. They eat mostly vegetables and tofu, and have a few strategies to prevent overeating. They have smaller plates, serve food before they eat it (making it harder to go for seconds), and have an adage to stop eating before they are full. The elderly also stay active – they form tight and old friendship groups (staying together in groups for 90 yrs or more), and always keep a reason to get up in the morning rather than just retiring to do nothing.
- In USA the oldest population were 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda California. Average age of 11 years older than the average American. One key is the 7th day itself – a day off without stress, nature walks are common. They also are a tight knit community, and their gatherings reinforce their wholesome values. Dan shares stories of 3 centenarians, all still working or staying active.
So what can we learn from these groups:
- Move Naturally – these people do not exercise in the usual sense, but keep walking and gardening, moving up and down stairs. Active movement is build into their lifestyles
- Positive outlook – the 3 groups take time out – to pray or talk. They also have a sense of purpose in retirement.
- Eat wisely – they have a plant based diet, though usually not purely vegetarian. They often have a drink in the evening, and keep from overeating (stop eating when 80% full).
- Connect – these cultures are tribal and stick together. They tend to respect the elderly and have a sense of belonging. Their friends also have the same healthy values, so reinforcing a good lifestyle.
Interesting talk. He says it all, not much to add.