Blue zones: Do people who live in certain areas live longer?

(CBS News) According to National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner, if you want a long and healthy life, it may help to live in a "blue zone."

Buettner coined the term for his book "The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest." The area refers to demographic and geographic areas of the world where people are most likely to live to be 100 or more.

"What my team tried to do is look at the environmental components that nudged them all day into eating a little bit better, moving a little bit more and the big point, socializing more and having a strong sense of purpose," said Buettner. "It turns out that that conveys more longevity than any pill you can take."

He believes that there are only five of these longevity hotspots in the world: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ncoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and area where Seventh Day Adventists live within Loma Linda, Calif.

Buettner said that there are a few characteristics that make up a "blue zone," such as eating a plant-based diet and having constant moderate activity.

"It's not a silver bullet. It's silver buckshot. We found nine common denominators of the world's longest living. When it comes to diet, there's a big argument for having a vegan diet, but we find that by looking at data from 100,000 Americans, the Adventist health study, that adding a little bit of fish to your diet, being a pescatarian is actually better for you," he said. "If you can articulate your sense of purpose, it's worth about eight extra years of your life expectancy and living in a place where you're nudged to move all day long is better than sitting at your chair all day long and going to the gym for a half hour."

Buettner is attempting to bring the lifestyles led in these areas to cities around the U.S., and communities in California, Iowa and Minnesota have all implemented their own "blue zones."

"Health behaviors are infectious. If your three best friends are obese, there's a 150 percent better chance that you're overweight," said Buettner. "So to find people who want to change their health habits and forge a relationship with them, that creates a long-term nudge so people tend to go out and walk and tend to go out and garden as opposed to sitting on a barstool."

This initiative, called the Blue Zone Project is a systematic approach that allows citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders to work together on policies and programs that will make the most impact and move the community toward optimal health and well-being.

The next city that has been targeted for the Blue Zone Project is Fort Worth, Texas.

For Dan Buettner's full interview, watch the video in the player above.

  • Shoshana Davis

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