Conference will offer secrets for longer lives

Imagine living to 100 years old.

To most, it’s an honorable goal, but one that’s rarely achieved — except in five “Blue Zones,” where people live measurably longer and healthier lives than anywhere else in the world.

In fact, most Blue Zones residents — who live in Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; the Italian island of Sardinia; the Greek island of Ikaria; and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica — live an average of 10 years longer than the rest of the world.

To let Columbus residents in on secrets to a longer life from those zones, Reach Healthy Communities program is sponsoring a free information session with a Blue Zones leader.

Tony Buettner, Blue Zones vice president for product and business development, will be at the Hamilton Ice Center in Columbus on Aug. 21 to share stories and tips from the lives of Blue Zones residents.

The zones were identified in 2004 when Buettner’s brother, Dan Buettner, began working with National Geographic to find the areas of the world where people live longest.

In the five areas Dan Buettner eventually identified as Blue Zones, residents are 10 times more likely to live to be 100.

“(Americans) should be living to the healthy age of 90,” Tony Buettner said. “Instead, we’re living to 78. We’re leaving 12 years on the table.”

When Buettner comes to Columbus, he’ll share the nine defining characteristics that all Blue Zones share that contribute to residents’ longer lives.

Building relationships is the central theme among those nine characteristics, Buettner said.

Blue Zones residents are religious — most Loma Linda residents are Seventh Day Adventists — and attend community religious services regularly, Buettner said. Denomination doesn’t necessarily matter, though.

People in the Blue Zones also make an effort to connect with their community outside of church and regularly carve out time for their families.

“We know that loneliness kills,” Buettner said.

But taking time for yourself is just as important as taking time for others, Buettner said.

Most Blue Zone residents allot time each day to relax and forget about their worries. They also make sure they understand what their goals are before the day’s work even begins.

“They wake up each morning with a strong sense of purpose,” Buettner said. “People with a strong sense of purpose can live seven years longer.”

In their spare time, Blue Zones residents don’t go to the gym or run marathons, Buettner said. Instead, they do natural movements such as walking or working around the house.

Diet is also important to the residents.

Most people in the Blue Zones eat a 95 percent plant-based diet consisting of 3- to 4-ounce serving sizes.

They also drink wine with their meals on a regular basis, with the exception of the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda.

“These people suffer just a fraction of the chronic diseases that the rest of the world does,” Buettner said.

And while Buettner hopes to persuade some residents to consider lifestyle changes when he comes to town, the goal of his visit is not to change everything about the way Columbus residents live, said Beth Morris, director of community health partnerships at Columbus Regional Hospital.

“It’s food for thought,” Morris said. “It gives us something to aspire to. We want to be a healthy community, so we’ll see what — if anything — we might be able to do here in our community.”

Buettner’s talk is free, but registration is required. Interested residents can contact the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce for information.

If you go

Blue Zones talk with Tony Buettner

When: 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Aug. 21

Where: Hamilton Center Ice Center: 2501 Lincoln Park Drive

Cost: Free

Registration: Breakfast is provided, so registration is required. For registration information, contact the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce at 812-379-4457.

Blue Zones' 9 tips for living longer
  • Move naturally; marathons or gym memberships not needed.
  • Find a sense of purpose and keep it.
  • Carve out time to relax and de-stress every day.
  • Drink some wine — an average of two glasses per day for men, and one glass per day for women.
  • Practice portion control; in Okinawa, the saying is “Stop eating when you’re 80 percent full.”
  • Eat less meat; diets should be 95 percent plant-based.
  • Make time for family, including extended family.
  • Go to church, regardless of denomination.
  • Establish yourself in a community, because loneliness kills.

About Reach Healthy Communities

The Reach Healthy Communities initiative began in 1994 with a goal of improving the health and quality of life for all residents of Bartholomew County.

Online: Visit whatsyourreach.org

Email: reach@crh.org

Phone: 812-376-5452

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.