No magic pill for living to 100 but there are

No magic pill for living to 100, but there are nine lessons we can learn: Dan Buettner – IndiaTimes

Dan Buettner has spent years researching Blue Zones, the five places in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. While his documentary about the secrets of longevity caused a stir, he spoke to the Sunday Times about what centenarians can teach us
Have you discovered the magic pill for longevity?
No, I have discovered that the key to health and happiness is not a magic bullet, but a miracle cure. There is no fountain of youth or magic pill we can take to live long, healthy and happy lives. It takes many small changes to create an environment that promotes healthy living. There are populations that have achieved the outcomes we want and that we can emulate.
What are the common factors that have helped people live to 100 years and older in places like Okinawa, Sardinia and Loma Linda?
We found nine evidence-based common denominators across locations. We call it Power9.
1. Move naturally: The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or go to the gym. Instead, they live in an environment that constantly pushes them to move without thinking about it. They grow gardens and lack mechanical conveniences for house and garden work.
2. Purpose: The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nikoyans call it “Plan de Vida”; for both it means “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your purpose is worth up to seven years of additional life expectancy.
3. Downshift: Even people in the blue zones suffer from stress. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to relieve that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians celebrate happy hour.
4. 80% Rule: “Hara hachi bu” – the 2500 Confucian mantra that Okinawa says before a meal, reminding them to stop eating when their stomach is 80% full. The 20 percent gap between not feeling hungry and feeling full could mean the difference between weight loss or weight gain. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and do not eat for the rest of the day.
5. Plant Type: Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentil beans, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat – mainly pork – is eaten on average only five times a month. Serving sizes are 85-115 g (3-4 oz), about the size of a deck of cards.
6. Wine at 5: People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses a day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine) with friends. And no, you can’t save all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
7. Affiliation: All but five of the 263 centenarians we surveyed belonged to a religious community. Denomination doesn’t seem to play a role. Research shows that attending religious services four times per month increases life expectancy by 4 to 14 years.
8. Putting Your Loved Ones First: Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means aging parents and grandparents need to stay nearby or in the house (this also reduces child morbidity and mortality rates). They commit to a life partner (which can extend life expectancy up to three years) and invest time and love in their children (they are more likely to care for you when the time comes).
9. Right Tribe: The world’s longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behavior. Okinawans formed “moais,” groups of five friends who made a lifelong commitment to one another. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness and even loneliness are contagious. The social networks of long-lived people have a positive influence on their health behavior.
So we can skip the gym, eat carbs and still live long if we have good friends to hang out with?
It changes the way we look at these things. For many, it’s difficult to stick to an exercise routine, and our bodies aren’t designed to sit at a desk all day and hit the gym for an hour in the evening. We need natural exercise often throughout the day. Carbohydrates get a bad rap because, although gummy bears and black beans both contain carbohydrates, they are obviously not the same thing for our health. It makes much more sense to put together a group of healthy friends whose idea of ​​a good time is hiking outside or eating a plant-based dinner and listening to/supporting each other.
India is experiencing a rapid increase in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. What changes do we need to make?
Short-term change should really start at the individual level. Eat family dinner around the table (not in front of the TV), help yourself at the counter, find a handful of plant-based products your family loves and add them to your cooking routine. Keep salty snacks and sugary drinks away and place fruits and healthy snacks (nuts) on the counter. Treat yourself to natural exercise throughout the day and encourage your whole family to join you. Long-term changes require support from the local government or employer. For example, creating walkable and bike-friendly cities that are not car-based but pedestrian-based.
Why the term “blue zone”?
The term “Blue Zones” came about when the demographers we work with, Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, began identifying the regions with the highest concentrations of male centenarians. When they focused on the cluster of villages in Sardinia, they drew circles on the map. The only pen they had was blue. For this reason, we have begun to refer to these longevity areas as “Blue Zones.”
They’ve taken on not only the powerful fast food industry, but also the anti-aging industry that sells us cosmetics, medications, gym memberships, and new types of “healthy” foods every year. What resistance did you face when trying to recreate the Blue Zone environment in the United States?
People in the United States value personal choices, and there was a fear that what we wanted to do would take many of those choices away from them. But after some clarification, we showed that we wanted to achieve exactly the opposite. Instead of taking away the choice to ride to the supermarket, we wanted to give them the choice to ride a bike. Instead of taking away the choice to buy a salty snack, we wanted to give them the choice to also buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Again, it’s about the environment and creating an area where the healthy choice is an easy choice.
They say in the documentary that if someone in the US is obese and sick, those around them are responsible. Can you explain? We’re told that health and weight loss are a matter of self-discipline and control.
Self-discipline is like a muscle and muscle fatigue. This is why diets and exercise don’t work particularly well for humans at a population level. If you put 100 people on a diet today, you’ll lose about 10 of them within three months. You will lose about 90% of it within seven months and almost all of it in three years. Our brain is programmed for new things. We like new things; We’re running out of gas. We lose our discipline. No diet in the history of the world has ever worked for more than about 3% of people who started it after two years. They are good short-term strategies. They sell a lot of books. They will sell programs, but they really don’t work. Exercise programs have a similar relapse curve, as do people who try to take supplements to get healthy. Even if you had a pill that would make you healthier, which we probably don’t, at least proactively, people wouldn’t take it long enough to make a difference. So it’s about creating an environment in which health and well-being emerges, not about striving for something.
In your book and documentation, you described Singapore as Blue Zone 2.0. How did they achieve this in such a short period of time in an urban setting that we have only ever seen in remote, rural areas around the world?
The Singapore government made the decision that they wanted to see a change. A wide range of measures discourage smoking, subsidize healthy foods and make parks and public transport easily accessible to everyone. This is largely why the small country has achieved one of the highest health and life expectancy rates in the world at 84 years old. Its drug and gun laws may seem draconian, but this country of 5.5 million people suffered just 19 overdose deaths in 2019, compared to more than 100,000 in the U.S., and just three gun violence deaths compared to our 49,000.
What Blue Zone habits have you adopted?
I try to implement all Blue Zone principles as best as possible. I eat a plant-based diet and no longer eat meat. I know that a few more hours of socializing is better than a few more hours of work, so I won’t be working after 5 p.m. When I work, I answer many of my calls while walking. I host weekly dinner parties for my friends. I live in a walkable community where I can walk to the store or to dinner.