Friday, August 7, 2009

Blue Zones: Minnesota Edition

A native Minnesotan, Dan Buettner wrote about Blue Zones for National Geographic in 2005, which is his term for "the regions on Earth with the longest life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy or concentration of persons over 100." Buettner published, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest," in 2008 and has since received funding from United Health Foundation to launch the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

I heard Dan speak in May 2008 about his research of centenarians (people aged 100+) who not only live long lives, but more notably, live these long lives in good health. What he proposed is that while the typical recommendations to eat well and exercise play a part in a healthy living, lifestyle and culture are also key. Numbered below, from bottom to top, from left to right, this pyramid composes the Power 9.

1. Right Tribe (developing a health-conscious and supportive network)
2. Belong (religious community allows for faith and help in times of need)
3. Loved ones first (benefits of living near multiple generations of family)
4. "Hara hachi Bu" (stop eating when you're 80% full, as the Japanese do)
5. Plant Slant (more veggies, less protein and processed foods)
6. Wine@5 (a glass of wine a day with antioxidants is good for your heart)
7. Purpose or "ikigai" (know your purpose in life)
8. Downshift (prayer and meditation)
9. Move naturally (find ways to move mindlessly throughout the day as part of life)

1-3 are about connecting, 4-6 are about eating wisely, 7-8 are about the right outlook, and 9 is about moving naturally. These findings about the lifestyle, diet, and culture of centenarians may seem simple but can have a lasting impact: "The average American could live up to 12 more good years by putting these habits to work."

While we won't know the results of the Vitality Project in Albert Lea until October 13, 2009, there's no time for Millennials to waste in incorporating some of these tips and working on shaping a more supportive local culture. While we're far from being centenarians, we've got a lot of change to make and we'll need those additional 12 years to get things done around here!

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