How World's Longest-Living People Do It

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
National Geographic/
Dan Buettner has spent the last several years studying five areas around the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. He has traveled to these places with teams of scientists to figure out just what keeps these people, young, healthy and vital well into their 90s and beyond. As a result, Buettner has uncovered several key factors that differentiate their lifestyle from ours. He shares the secrets and chorinicles his travels on "The Early Show Saturday Edition" 's special broadcast, "Secrets for a Longer Life," and in his new book, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest."

What if I could tell you how do live another 10 years, as well as look younger and feel younger at every age? Something called the Danish Twin Studies established that less than 20 percent of how long the average person lives is dictated by genes. In other words, most of how long and how well you live is up to you.

The premise of Blue Zones is: Identify the optimal lifestyle of longevity, and you have a de facto formula of longevity.

What is the optimal lifestyle of longevity? Does it involve diets? Supplements? Exercise programs? Should you be eating organic, free-reign chicken or tofu? And what about physical activity? Should you be running marathons or doing yoga?

To answer these questions, I teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world's best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people are living MEASURABLY better. In these Blue Zones, we found people who reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than the US, where people suffer a fraction of the rate of heart disease and cancer than we do and where people are getting the extra 10 years that we're missing.

Then, we took teams of scientists to each location who know how to identify lifestyle characteristics that may explain longevity. In Sardinia, Italy, we found a wine with the world's highest-known levels of antioxidants, and in Ikaria, Greece, we discovered ancient herbal teas that lower blood pressure. On the other side of the planet, we found an island where purpose and mutual support networks, called Moai, explain an extra half dozen years of life. In Nicoya, it's the Meso-American diet of beans, squash and a special corn tortilla that is propelling people into their 90s at rates four times greater than in the U.S. Finally, among Loma Linda's Seventh Day Adventists, we found America's longest-lived culture. They're living about an extra decade longer than the rest of us. How? Part of the reason comes from a diet inspired from the Bible. Genesis, Chapter 1, vs 26.

For the first time in living history, life expectancy of our children is projected to drop. As a nation, we're getting fatter every year. Diabetes is on the rise. Is this because Americans are less disciplined? Have we undergone a moral degeneration or are we somehow inferior to previous generations?

I don't think so. We are products of our environment. Every day, hundreds of marketing message rinse over our psyches -- many of them encouraging us to eat things that aren't good for us. Machines have engineered physical activity out of lives, and networked electronics are replacing face-to-face human contact.

We live in environments of sickness. The key to getting the extra 10 years we're missing -- the key is to follow the lessons from world's longest-lived people and create environments of health.

To read an excerpt of "The Blue Zones," click here.