And renowned explorer Dan Buettner was determined to find them, and learn their healthy-living secrets.
He dubbed the longevity hotspots "blue zones," and started an ongoing project of the same name.
Buettner, the National Geographic Society and a team of scientists identify and study the regions and their common threads regarding lifestyle, behavior, diet, outlook and stress-coping mechanisms. The idea is to help other people live longer, healthier, happier lives.
It's all chronicled in Buettner's best-seller, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest." (Read an excerpt.)
Buettner visited "The Early Show Saturday Edition" as part of its special broadcast, "Secrets for a Longer Life." He also.
In those far-flung parts of the world, people manage to avoid many of the diseases that kill Americans. On the broadcast, Buettner explained to subsitute co-anchor Debbye Turner Bell that blue zones are "demographically-confirmed and geographically-defined, and they're entire populations of people, pockets around the world where people are living as much as a decade longer than we are."
• Sardinia, Italy
• Okinawa, Japan
• Ikaria, Greece
• Nicoya, Costa Rica
• Loma Linda, Calif.
Buettner told CBS News there's no one key to longevity. "There is nothing that can stop, reverse or even slow aging," he says, "but there are several small things we can do to raise our life expectancy of the average American by about 12 years."
Among them: Avoid hard-pounding exercise in favor of low-impact, enjoyable physical activity, surround yourself with the right kind of people. Avoid meat and eat nuts.
This is a Bronze Age culture that has been isolated in Sardinia's highlands since about the time of Christ. Their lifestyle evolved over that time to celebrate older people, favor eating vegetables (especially fava beans and a type of bread with healthy bacteria), and a type of wine - cannonau - with the highest known levels of antioxidant. Also important is that drinking is a social activity, helping to build social networks, and consumed in concert with the Mediterranean Diet which literally combines to make more antioxidants (polyphennols)
Lessons Learned from Sardinia:
Lean plant-based diet accented with meat - Diet consists of whole grain bread, beans, garden vegetables and fruits. Sardinians traditionally eat pecorino cheese made from grass fed sheep which is high in Omega 3's. Meat only on special occasions or Sunday.
Family First - Strong family values. Every member of the family is cared for reducing risk of depression, suicide and stress.
Goat's Milk - Protects against inflammatory disease of aging such as heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Celebrate Elders - Grandparents provide love, childcare, financial support, motivation and expectations. This may add up to healthier, better adjusted children.
Walking - Walking 5 miles per day provides cardiovascular benefits plus positive effects on bone and muscle metabolism without joint-pounding.
Drink a glass or two of red wine daily - Cannonau wine has two to three times the level of artery-scrubbing flavonoids as other wines.
Laughter - Literally, their sardonic humor reduces stress.
For more see Page 2.