Recently, I interviewed Dan Buettner, whose latest book, The Blue Zones, is a veritable treasure trove of tips for living longer. Buettner is an explorer whose work for National Geographic led to the book. He investigated four parts of the world where there are more healthy centenarians than anywhere else – Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, CA; Okinawa, Japan; and Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. Here’s what we can learn from the folks who’ve done “anti-aging” better than anyone else on the planet.
1. Move. Longevity all-stars engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity, whether it be hiking, shepherding, gardening, walking, yoga, or something else. The data suggest that moderate, even easy, activity done on a daily basis will extend your life.
2. “Hara hachi bu.” This Okinawan saying means “Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full.” Clear enough? Cutting calories by a mere 20 percent will extend your life.
3. Go heavy on the plants. While readers of ETR know that higher-protein diets can be really healthy, that doesn’t rule out a diet that’s also loaded with vegetables. All of the long-lived peoples investigated by Buettner ate a plant-based diet with almost no processed foods.
4. Drink some alcohol. In Sardinia, it’s wine. In Okinawa, it’s sake. Whatever you prefer, alcohol in moderation seems to reduce both stress and inflammation. But remember that women who drink need to be getting plenty of folic acid in their diets. (Even moderate drinking raises the risk of breast cancer – but only for women who are folic acid deficient.)
5. See the big picture. Okinawans call it ikigai. Nicoyans call it plan de vida. In both cultures, the phrase translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Develop a strong sense of purpose, connection to others, and community. It’s the best anti-aging “medicine” you can find.[Ed. Note: Dr. Jonny Bowden, a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition, and health, is the author of the new book The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth. For more information, go to www.jonnybowden.com. ]