Monday, February 23, 2009

Part 2: The Secrets to Living Longer or better yet: You are the Company You Keep

What do Sardinian sheepherders, Japanese grandmothers and Seventh-Day Adventists in Los Angeles have in common? These groups are some of the longest-lived people in the world. One of the most striking people featured in Author Dan Buettner's book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest, is 104-year-old Giovanni Sannai of Sardinia. "He was out chopping wood at 9 in the morning," Buettner recalls "He started his day with a glass of wine and there was a steady parade of people coming by to ask his advice. That's one of the characteristics of the Sardinian Blue Zone — the older you get, the more celebrated you are." Interestingly (to me at least) there seems to be plenty of diversity in these differing peoples daily routines for example: Okinawans sat on the floor; Sardinians lived in vertical houses; the Costa Ricans had gardens. So they were doing little things all day long that added up significantly over the years and the decades. One of the idiosyncrasies they discovered is that people who ate nuts four to five times a week, 2 ounces at a time, tend to live two to three years longer than people who don't eat nuts. Some may think the secret to longevity lies in strenuous physical activity, such as running marathons or triathlons or pumping iron. But Buettner says he has identified four things people can do that can potentially increase life expectancy: Create an environment that encourages physical activity, set up your kitchen in such a way that you're not overeating, cultivate a sense of purpose and surround yourself with the right people. These are simple yet elegant choices that not only may add years to one's life, but increase the quality of those years of life.

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