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The Blue Zones Habits for Longevity

With Dan Buettner

Season 6, Episode 6  | September 29, 2020

The Blue Zones are five places around the globe that explorer Dan Buettner and fellow researchers have identified as having the highest populations of longest-living individuals. Buettner joins us to talk about the Blue Zones and the Power 9 healthy-lifestyle habits they have in common, plus ways we can begin to incorporate these behaviors in our own lives for increased longevity and vitality.

Headshot Of Dan Buettner.

Dan Buettner is the founder of the Blue Zones, a National Geographic fellow and explorer, and the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100, as well as the other national bestsellers The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, and The Blue Zones of Happiness. His research led to the establishment of the Blue Zones Project, which currently is working to transform 51 communities in the North America.

The Blue Zones feature populations with the largest levels of centenarians, or people who live to be 100 — and without diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or dementia. Buettner and his team have identified the healthy-lifestyle habits they have in common — what they call the “Power 9” — and that contribute to this longevity. They are:

1. Move naturally

“Fewer than 20 percent of Americans get enough exercise to meet minimum recommendations,” says Buettner. “In Blue Zones, they’re nudged into moving every 20 minutes or so.”

2. Purpose

“The Okinawan notion of purpose is summed up in something called ‘ikigai,’ or the reason for which you wake up in the morning,” says Buettner. “We know that people who have a strong sense of purpose live about eight years longer than people who are rudderless.”

 3. Down shift

“They suffer the same stresses we do, but they have sacred daily rituals to destress, either through meditation, prayer, taking a nap, or happy hour,” says Buettner. “This is very important because the root of every age-related disease from Alzheimer’s to heart disease is chronic stress. And unless you have a way to turn that off a few times a day, it’s going to quite literally eat you alive.”

 4. 80-percent rule

“The Okinawans have a word for this: Instead of saying a prayer before a meal, they’ll say ‘hara hachi bu,’ which means “stop when your stomach is 80 percent full,” says Buettner. “They plate out 80 percent of what’s going to make them full and put the rest away so they’re not tempted by it.”

 5. Plant slant

“If you want to know what a 100-year-old ate to live to be 100, you have to see what they were eating most of their lives,” says Buettner. “They eat largely a plant-based diet, about 95 to 100 percent on average — that means whole grains, greens, tubers, nuts, and beans.”

 6. Wine at 5

“We find that they do drink a little bit of wine — two or three glasses a day — but usually with meals,” says Buettner.

 7. Belong

“They tend to belong to a religion and show up for it,” says Buettner. “Good research shows that churchgoers outlive non-churchgoers.”

 8. Family first

“They put their family first, keep their aging parents nearby, and invest in their kids,” says Buettner.

 9. Right tribe

“They surround themselves with the right people and that’s probably the most important thing,” says Buettner. “The four people who you curate to spend your quality time with has probably more influence on your long-term health and longevity than any diet or exercise program or supplement plan.”

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Transcript: The Blue Zones Habits for Longevity

Season 6, Episode 6  | September 29, 2020

Jamie Martin 
Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor in chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman 
And I’m David Freeman, the national program leader for Life Time’s Alpha program. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we’re working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving forward in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin 
In each episode of this season, we’ll break down various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, and health issues. We’ll also share real, inspiring stories of transformation.

David Freeman 
And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

[Music]

Jamie Martin

Before we get into this episode, a quick shoutout to Invisalign, the official smile sponsor of Life Time and the Life Time Talks podcast. When it comes to getting the smile you’ve always wanted, Invisalign is all about superior treatment, and you get that with two decades of doctor-driven experience. From small shifts to big gaps in teeth, Invisalign aligners have transformed over 8 million smiles worldwide — mine included.

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[Music]

Jamie Martin

Hey, everyone. I’m Jamie Martin.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman.

Jamie Martin

And welcome back to Life Time Talks. In this episode, we’re talking with someone who has been a long-time go-to expert over at Experience Life magazine, Mr. Dan Buettner. He is the founder of the Blue Zones, and David, I don’t know about you, but I am really excited for our listeners to tune into this conversation.

David Freeman

Absolutely. So many great takeaways, and going into this episode, I did my own research, and I do that a lot before going into a lot of our episodes, but I was just, I kept coming across more and more things that just left me just flabbergasted. I’m super excited to share a lot of what we took away from this conversation with our listeners.

Jamie Martin

So, for those who may be new to the Blue Zones, there are five communities around the globe that Dan Buettner and fellow National Geographic researchers have identified as these longest-lived communities or populations. So, there’s these high concentrations of centenarians, or people who have lived to 100, and what’s super interesting is, as part of their research, Dan and his team have identified these healthy lifestyle habits that they think are contributing to this, and that all five of these communities, these Blue Zones, have in common.

And they’re now using what they’ve learned through the Blue Zones, these places that are in Greece, and Italy, and Costa Rica, but they’re using those concepts that they’re learning and applying those to what they’re calling the Blue Zones Project which are projects that are in about 50 cities around the country. David, what were some of the highlights of our conversation for you?

David Freeman

So many different highlights. Two that obviously stand out to me, one you guys probably are familiar with is just the purpose piece, and we’re going to go over the different nine elements that speak to the Blue Zones and make them so successful at what it is that they do. So, just purpose, understanding purpose, and I know Dan, and we will be going deeper into that in this episode, and then, finding your right tribe. We’re going to go into depth about what that means, but just surrounding yourself with like-minded people, those are two things that resonated with me.

Jamie Martin

You know, I think one thing that, for me, is so powerful about what he’s calling these “Power 9” habits, are just how accessible they are. I mean, they’re not things that really require a lot of resources beyond our time. You know, in most cases, they don’t require a lot of money to access these things. It’s really about us taking the time and committing to incorporating more of these habits, and working towards the behavior change that hopefully will help drive us towards greater longevity and vitality in our own lives.

So, I guess without further ado, I think we should dive right into this episode. Any final thoughts, David, before we turn things over to our conversation?

David Freeman

Yeah, come into this conversation with an open mind, allow your brain to be a sponge, and let’s soak it all in.

[Music]

Jamie Martin

Hey, everyone, we’re back with Life Time Talks, and today we have Dan Buettner, the founder of Blue Zones, with us. Dan, we are really excited to have you. Thanks for coming on.

Dan Buettner

Well, you know, I’ve been a huge fan of Experience Life forever, so I am thrilled that it has now taken to the airwaves. You know, I’m honored.

Jamie Martin

So, Dan, we introduced the concept of Blue Zones to the Experience Life readers a long time ago, but in this time of coronavirus and everything else that’s going on in our world, we wanted to revisit, you know, your Power 9, and also just learn more about your interest in health and longevity. So, before we get into the Power 9, can you just talk to us a little bit about how and why longevity and vitality have been your area of focus for all these years?

Dan Buettner

I approach it from a very different point of view. You know, I’m a National Geographic explorer, not a physician, and rather than looking for longevity in a petri dish or in a test tube, our idea was to, in a sense, reverse-engineer longevity. So, finding the populations where we know people are making it to their mid-90s or -100s without diabetes, or heart disease, or cancer, or even dementia, and then to look back throughout their lives in a systematic way, scientifically rigorous, to find out exactly what they’ve done to achieve the outcomes we all want, which is healthy longevity, and that’s the idea behind Blue Zones.

David Freeman

So, let’s talk a little bit about the Blue Zones. Where are these places, and how did you go about identifying them?

Dan Buettner

So, we found five Blue Zones. Okinawa, Japan has the world’s longest-lived women, the highlands of Sardinia the longest-lived men. On the island of Ikaria, we have a population that lives a long time, but largely without dementia. Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, you have the lowest rate of middle-age mortality in the world. In other words, middle-aged people have the best chance of reaching a healthy age 95, and then here in the United States, it’s among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.

And before I even got on a plane, we hired a team of demographers, these are scientists, population experts, who basically looked at the census data, found birth and death, and confirmed that these people are really long-lived, because lots of places, like the Caucasus in Georgia or Vilcabamba Valley of Ecuador, have this myth of being long-lived, but they really weren’t. So, we did our homework before starting.

Jamie Martin

So, you identified these five places around the globe. Back in, it was about 2004, is when you kind of started releasing your work, is that right?

Dan Buettner

The big release was the November issue of, cover story of National Geographic, and that was 2005.

Jamie Martin

When you were identifying these places, you identified these nine factors that you’re calling the “Power 9,” that these populations of centenarians and longest-lived people have in common. So, what we want to do is kind of go through these Power 9, and talk about, you know, one, why they’re important across these different cultures and these communities, but also, why are they relevant, just as relevant today and in our current circumstance as in the past. So, we can start with “move naturally.” Tell us a little bit about that.

Dan Buettner

Well, exercise, per se, has been a public health failure. We’ve spent a lot of time and money promoting the idea, but people, fewer than 20 percent of Americans get enough exercise to meet minimum recommendations. In Blue Zones, they’re nudged into moving every 20 minutes or so. So, every time they go to work, or a friend’s house, or out to eat, occasions a walk, they have gardens out back.

Their houses aren’t full of gadgets to do their work: They knead bread by hand and grind corn by hand, et cetera. They suffer the same stresses we do, but they have sacred daily rituals to de-stress, either through meditation, prayer, taking a nap, or happy hour. Very important, because the root of every age-related disease, from Alzheimer’s to heart disease, is chronic stress, and unless you have a way to turn that off a few times a day, it is going to quite literally eat you alive.

They have vocabulary for purpose. This is number three. We know that people who have a strong sense of purpose live about eight years longer than people who are rudderless. I wrote another book called The Blue Zone Solution, and The Blue Zone Kitchen, that captured the diets of longevity. You want to know what a 100-year-old ate to live to be 100? You have to see what they were eating most of their lives, from the time they were babies to the time they were, you know, retirees, and we find that they do drink a little bit of wine, two or three glasses a day, but usually with meals.

They eat largely a plant-based diet. About 95 to 100 percent, on average, is plant-based, and that means whole grains, greens, tubers, like sweet potatoes, nuts — if you’re eating a handful of nuts a day, it’s probably adding two years to your life expectancy — and beans, about a cup of beans a day. If you’re eating a cup of beans a day, it’s probably adding four years to your life expectancy. And then, six, seven, and eight, they put their family first, keep their aging parents nearby, and invest in their kids.

They tend to belong to a religion and show up for it. Good research shows that churchgoers outlive non-churchgoers. And then finally, they surround themselves with the right people, and that’s probably the most important thing. The four people who you curate to spend your quality time with has probably more influence on your long-term health and longevity than any diet or exercise program or supplement plan you can possibly sign up for.

David Freeman

So, Dan, you just broke down a lot of the nine. One that stands out to me is purpose. A lot of individuals that know me, I reference it a lot. Can you go a little bit deeper, as far as what you mean by purpose, because it can be broad in a lot of ways. So, when you say “purpose,” is that the uniqueness of an individual, and why they’re here on Earth?

Dan Buettner

Good question. So, the Okinawan notion of purpose is summed up in something called “ikigai,” or the reason for which you wake up in the morning, what gets you out of bed in the morning. But for our work, we tried to dive down a little bit deeper, to identify purpose, and for us, there’s four components. Number one, what do you like to do? Number two, what are your values? Number three, what are you good at? And number four, where do those three things come together to provide an outlet for your purpose?

In other words, purpose doesn’t really matter much unless you’re putting it to work or putting it into action, and we call that fourth thing “gifts.”

Jamie Martin

That seems a little bit like a Venn diagram, like, where they all intersect, right, and bring these ideas together, potentially.

Dan Buettner

Yes, that’s well put.

Jamie Martin

So, I think one I want to spend a little more time on, too, is the stress, because right now, we are seeing unprecedented numbers of people who are experiencing stress in their lives, more reports of anxiety. What are your thoughts on that, in terms of, you know, of stress in this period, which is unprecedented for all of us?

Dan Buettner

Well, stress is part of the human condition, and I mean, there’s lots of tried and true ways of mitigating stress. I think, you know, it’s over-used, but meditation, and when I say meditation, it’s not necessarily just an app, it probably means taking a class and really learning how to do it. It’s an evidence-based way to lower your stress levels, if you can stick to it every day. But in Blue Zones, once again, they get de facto stress mitigation by, in Okinawa, ancestor veneration.

In their living room, they’ll have a shrine that reminds them of their ancestors, and they’ll spend a few minutes every day to give thanks and remember that they’re not just a point in time, but part of a continuum, and things change. As I mentioned before, taking a nap, actually, we know that people take naps, their cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone, drops, and actually, their chance of heart disease drops by about a third, if you’re napping 20 minutes a day, five days a week.

Socializing with people you like — there’s no better way to take your focus off of that thing you’re worried about than to get together with a few friends. It might be over a glass of wine out in your backyard, it might be over a Zoom call, but hey, it works, and in Blue Zones, we see this in happy hours. And then, you know, praying, a form of meditation, and Christians and Jewish people and Muslims all over the world get their daily stress relief by relinquishing their daily worries to a higher power. These all work.

David Freeman

I like that. I want to go into a piece that a lot of people probably, and I want to focus a lot on America, because one of the most obese nations in the world, and we have a lot of the highest metabolic disease risk factors as well. And you have this, as far as your 80 percent rule, so, we often hear about this, about understanding and stop eating when you’re 80 percent full. What’s the reality about this notion, and how would you go about explaining it for those who’ve never heard it?

Dan Buettner

That’s a very good point. So, the Okinawans, again, have a word for this. Instead of saying a prayer before a meal, they’ll say “hara hachi bu,” which means “stop when your stomach is 80 percent full.” And they’ll do it by pre-plating their food ahead of time. So, instead of putting 120 percent more calories than they’re going to eat on the table, they plate out 80 percent of what’s going to make me full, and put the rest away, so you’re not tempted by it out in front of you.

But a few other ways to sort of “hara hachi bu,” or engineer calories out of your daily life, is eat at home. I think one of the great silver linings of COVID is it’s provided an opportunity for us to relearn the art of home cooking. Every time you go out to eat, the average American consumes between 250 and 300 extra calories. There’s all these insidious calories. Restaurants tend to vastly overserve us. Most of us are on the “see food” diet. In other words, we eat food we see, and eating at home allows you to control the ingredients, control the salt, the fat, the healthy ingredients, and home-cooked food tends to be much less calorically dense. And that’s probably the easiest way to follow the 80 percent rule.

Jamie Martin

Well, that kind of goes into my next question, too, because you talk about, there’s a plant slant to the Blue Zones factor, one of the nine. You know, one thing we talk about a lot in our nutrition philosophy at Life Time and in Experience Life, too, is high-quality proteins. So, you mentioned beans being an important one. Are there other proteins that you recommend? What’s your thought on meat, like, with the Blue Zones communities around the globe? Are they eating any meat, or is it really limited?

Dan Buettner

It’s very limited. It’s a celebratory food. Traditionally, it’s no more than five times a month. So, a little more than once a week. It’s usually at a birthday, or a, some village festival. It’s not a daily event. The way to think of meat, it’s a little bit like radiation. We know for sure a lot will kill you. If you’re eating more than a serving of meat a day, your chance of heart disease, diabetes, and several kinds of cancers double or triple, but we don’t know the safe level.

Blue Zones would suggest that maybe the safe level is, you know, once a week, but in my opinion, there’s no healthy animal-based protein, because if you read books like The China Study, the largest epidemiology study ever done in the world, it shows a very clear association between animal protein consumption, whether you get it from eggs, or cheese, or meat, and the incidence of cancer. Animal protein fuels cancer. So, if you really want to be healthy, don’t eat any at all, but I recognize people like to eat meat, it’s part of our tradition, and if you need to eat meat, I’d limit it to once a week.

Jamie Martin

OK, so, I’m going to tag onto that for a second. There is this big fake meat trend happening right now, where you think about things like the Beyond Burger, or Impossible, where these are, like, replicas of, they’re supposed to taste like real meat. Do you have a take on that, or an opinion on those?

Dan Buettner

I think it’s a gateway drug. I think it’s a good, you know, people of our age, we tend to have been, grown up on loads of meat, especially in the Midwest, but young people, 15 percent . . . so, Baby Boomers, fewer than three percent identify as vegan or vegetarian. For people in college today, the percentage is 15 percent, and for people, like these, I would say more conscious and more health-concerned younger people, emerging generation, the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger are basically gateway drugs.

And are they as healthy as eating a bean burger? No, but they’re a heck of a lot healthier than eating, you know, their dead-animal equivalent, with all the hormones, and saturated fats, and pathogens that meat carries.

Jamie Martin

As a farm girl from Wisconsin, you know, this is something that’s taken a long time for me to personally reckon with, but it’s one day at a time, right? One meal at a time.

Dan Buettner

You have to realize that, for much of human history, meat was important for calories. It just isn’t anymore, and I know it’s the economic pillar of the family farm. You know, you had your cow, and your pig, and your chickens, and so forth, but most farms are now taken over by big factories, and they raise this, 99 percent of our meat, cheese, and eggs is raised industrially, in an unhealthy, cruel, and environmentally horrible way, and the food just isn’t all that good for us.

And people don’t like to hear it, because they like, you know, bacon tastes good. Burgers taste good. And you know, people come along with these questionable studies to support the notion of meat eating. People glom onto it because it reinforces what they want to do, but if you look at the meta-analysis, and there’s been a huge one in Europe, Harvard just recently did another huge meta-analysis following millions of people over 10 years, it is crystal clear that the more meat you eat, the quicker you die.

You know, and for those people who are interested in weight, we know this from the Adventists Health Study, 100,000 Americans followed for more than 30 years, the vegans, a 5-foot-8 vegan weighs about 20 pounds less than his or her meat-eating counterpart. So, people listening here who care about losing weight, probably the most effective thing you can do is move away from meat, cheese, and eggs to a whole, plant-based diet. And you don’t have to think about much else, because if you’re eating whole, plant-based food, you can eat till you’re full, and there’s not enough caloric density to overeat. You know, if you’re eating beans, and rice, and squash, and broccoli, you can eat that stuff all day long, completely satiate yourself, and lose weight.

Jamie Martin

That fiber in all of those is a big component of that, too, right?

Dan Buettner

Huge component. Now we’re discovering that our microbiome, this virtual organ that weighs between 6 and 8 pounds in our gut, a hundred trillion or so bacteria, those bacteria are very good for us, and they produce short-chain fatty acids that favor our immune system. So, here we get back to COVID, you want a strong immune system. They govern our mood, they control inflammation. The only thing those healthy bugs eat is fiber, and the standard American diet of burgers, and cheese, and eggs has no fiber.

You want to go for your beans, your broccoli, your rice, your squash. My book, Blue Zones Kitchen, has 100 recipes that are chock-full of different kinds of fiber that’ll make your microbiome sing.

Jamie Martin

We have a couple copies of that at the EL office. So, obviously, you have the Blue Zones, which you’ve identified these five places, but you have applied those concepts that you’ve learned from these communities around the globe to different communities here in the United States, through the Blue Zones Project. And one of the things I love that you’ve written is this whole concept of community, like, community-supported health and well-being, right?

So, can you talk a little bit about the projects? I mean, one in Albert Lea, Minnesota. There’s one in Fort Worth, Texas. Tell us a little bit about those, and some of the success you’ve had in those cities.

Dan Buettner

Well, we have 54 Blue Zone Projects we’ve either completed or are in process right now, and the idea behind it, the core observation of Blue Zones was that people who live in these places, they don’t have better discipline, they don’t have better diets, they don’t have greater individual responsibility, or any of the things that are often told to us about getting healthier: It’s your responsibility to eat healthy and take charge of your own body.

Blue Zones are people just like us, but they live in environments where the cheapest, most accessible, and tastiest foods are basically peasant food, beans, greens, nuts, and tubers. They’re nudged into movement every 20 minutes, largely because their cities are engineered for human beings, not for the automobile. So, they’re walking places, biking places, taking public transportation. They connect. So, what the Blue Zone Project does is, so, Fort Worth, Texas is our biggest city to date, a million people.

We don’t come into Fort Worth, and we try to convince a million people to start eating plant-based and to walk more. No, we come in, and we get 150 restaurants to become Blue Zone-certified, where they have three tasty, plant-based items on their menu. We reduce junk food marketing by changing ordinance that limit billboard advertising reminding us to get a burger or pizza. We work with city planners to make sure that these big, wide roads have a bike lane, and a bus lane, and a safe sidewalk. And essentially, we create the environment where wherever people turn, they’re confronted by a healthier choice, rather than the unhealthy choice.

And when you work that for five years or so, in Fort Worth, while obesity went up everywhere else in Texas, it went down six percent in Fort Worth. Smoking went down three percent in Fort Worth. People’s reported life satisfaction went up about eight percent, and that’s not because we cajoled a million people. It’s because we shaped their environment to look and feel more like a Blue Zone, and thereby we engineered their choices to be better.

David Freeman

Wow. I love that. I mean, I’m inspired. I’m in Dallas right now, Dallas/Fort Worth, so I definitely will probably try to check out some of those spots. This is something that’s near and dear to me, is something that I’ve actually played around with, as far as for the plant-based piece, and it was more of the accessibility to so many things, and not knowing where to go and how to get it, because it is a meat-dominated industry, right?

So, I wanted to talk about the pandemic. We briefly talked about it earlier, but when you look at the centenarians, like, the people who are 100 years old or older than that in the Blue Zones, how are they doing right now, during the pandemic?

Dan Buettner

Well, first of all, I know two of the Blue Zones have the lowest rates of COVID in their entire country. Why is that? Well, first of all, they honor their old people. So, old people are going to be the first to be taken care of, and quarantined, and really getting the attention they need without suffering the loneliness. Number two, you know, our hair is on fire with COVID right now. You know, this is a terrible infectious disease, but we kind of forget that the house is on fire when it comes to non-infectious disease.

Over six million Americans will die this year unnecessarily of heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and dementia, and it turns out that over 85 percent of people under 60 who are dying of COVID have one of these chronic disease. So, when you’re in a Blue Zone, where there’s low chronic disease, their immune systems are going to be much stronger, and they’re going to be much more capable for fighting off the coronavirus.

So, counterintuitively, one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves from COVID, along with wearing masks and social distancing, is eating beans and vegetables, and getting our physical activity, and socially connecting, and knowing our sense of purpose, these things that have been proven to lower chronic disease, and thus infectious disease.

Jamie Martin

The connection with our lifestyle choices in supporting and building our immune system so that we, when and if we are faced with this, we’re in a better place, hopefully, just keeps coming up over and over again, and I appreciate you making that connection. It’s so interesting. Which of the two Blue Zones, can I ask, are seeing their lowest rates in their country?

Dan Buettner

Nicoya and Sardinia. Ikaria only has one case. I don’t know how to compare it with the rest of Greece, but you know, they’re all incredibly low rates of COVID.

Jamie Martin

That’s so interesting to hear, and I hope we keep following that and learn more about what they’re doing. So, I’m just wondering, Dan, you’ve been all over the world. You’ve visited these communities multiple times. Do you have just a favorite story from a visit to a Blue Zone that you’d be willing to share with us, like, something that really was a wake-up or an ah-ha moment for you?

Dan Buettner

I met a guy named Stemite Moridis in Ikaria. Stemitis, when he was a young man, Greek, he made his way to the United States to pursue the American Dream. He got a job as a painter, he made money, got married, bought a Cadillac. At 66, though, he developed a cough, and he went to three doctors, all of whom said, you have terminal lung cancer, six months to live, go get your affairs in order. Instead of dying here in America, he decides to move back to Ikaria, back to his homeland, where he can be buried on the shores of the Aegean Sea with his ancestors.

So, at 66, he moves back to Ikaria, with his 85-year-old parents, who are just fine, and for six months, you know, presumably the last six months of his life, he starts eating the Ikarian diet, drinking the wine, reconnecting with his friends. He walks up to church, reconnects with his faith. Six months comes and goes, he’s not dead. He plants a vineyard, and he thinks to himself, well, I’m not going to be alive to see these grapes, but my wife will, and when she harvests these grapes, she will think of me.

So, long story medium, 38 years later, when I met him at age 103, he was not only harvesting all those grapes, he was making 200 liters of wine a year, all of which he drank. So . . .

Jamie Martin

Oh my gosh.

Dan Buettner

. . . so, here’s a guy that didn’t take any pills, didn’t take any cancer treatments, and he rid himself of lung cancer. And when I asked him, you know, what happened, I mean, what was the secret, and he just kind of shrugged his shoulders, said, “I don’t know, I guess I just forgot to die.” So, I use that story, I mean, it’s probably, you know, for sure it’s an outlier, or I’m guessing it’s an outlier, but I use that story in service of saying, we try so hard with these gimmicks, and these fad diets, and these pills, and these supplements, and running off to alternative therapies.

One of the best things we can do to maintain our health, and even reverse sickness, is setting up our surroundings so our best friends care about us, their idea of recreation is walking or gardening or biking. It wouldn’t hurt to have a vegan or vegetarian or two in your immediate social network, to live in places that are walkable, to work in places that fuel your soul, not just your wallet. These are the things, this is the stuff of life, and it’s the bumping into the right behaviors time and time again, that’s what’s going to get us to a, not only a long life, but a happy life.

David Freeman

Wow. I am just in awe of that story. So, we’re now into our power minute, Dan. This is coming to the end of the podcast. We always do this. If there’s one takeaway that you want to leave our listeners with, what would that be?

Dan Buettner

Curate your social network. More than anything, for longevity, is pick three friends who are going to help encourage the right behaviors and the . . . we know that if your three best friends are obese and unhealthy and unhappy, you’re about 150 percent more likely to be unhealthy yourself. And if I could just add one more, learn how to cook beans. Beans is arguably the greatest longevity food ever invented. They’re cheap, you can learn how to make them tasty, and they’re great pandemic foods, by the way. They last forever.

Jamie Martin

I love it. We’ll have to link to a couple of your recipes, Dan. I know there are some on the Blue Zone’s website, BlueZones.com. I know Blue Zones is on Instagram. Where else can people learn about your work?

Dan Buettner

Well, on Amazon, Blue Zone Kitchen and The Blue Zone Solution are available, and you know, if you want, you can, anybody who’s listening here, if you have a question, my email is Dan@BlueZones.com. I’ll respond to as many as I can.

Jamie Martin

Thank you so much, Dan.

Dan Buettner

Alright, you guys. What fun, and thank you for doing this.

David Freeman

Dan, I have something that stood out real quick. I know we just kind of closed it, but it just hit me, and I have to say it, just because it’s at the top of my mind, but I remember you saying earlier on, it was like, the things that you think of as, like, peasant food, like the beans, the rice, this, that, and the third, right, and it reminded me of chess. I don’t know, do you play chess?

Dan Buettner

I do play chess.

David Freeman

Yes. So, I always ask the question to people, like, what piece on the chess table is the most powerful piece? They usually say, you know, the king, the queen, so on and so forth, but when you said the peasant piece, it made me think of the pawns. And when you think about the pawns, and how when they make the right moves, and eventually when they get to the other end of the table, they can become whatever it is that they want, and I think of the peasant food allowing you to get to the other end . . .

Dan Buettner

That’s a great metaphor. That’s a great metaphor, and there’s lots of them, you know? They’re just sort of the humble, underdog, under-celebrated, but at the end, they come and metamorphize into the queen . . .

David Freeman

Yeah.

Dan Buettner

. . . win the game.

Jamie Martin

When you think of chess, think of those pawns, think of those peasant food. I love it. Dan, thank you so much for coming on.

Dan Buettner

I love you guys. Thank you very much.

[Music]

David Freeman 
Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?

Jamie Martin 
And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us, too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life, or reach out to us on Instagram at @lifetime.life@jamiemartinel, or @freezy30 and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at thesource.lifetime.life/podcasts.

David Freeman 
And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Feel free to write a review and also let others know about it, too. Take a screenshot of the episode and share it on social, share it with your friends, family, work buddies, life coach. You get the gist.

Jamie Martin 
Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks.

[Music]

Jamie Martin

Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time — Healthy Way of Life. It is produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins and sound consulting by Coy Larson. A big thank you to the team who pulls each episode together and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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