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Want to Live Longer? Me, Too!


Voted Popular Blog Post: View All Popular Posts

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ever wonder why some people live longer?

So did researcher Dan Buettner, whose recent book is "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest." With help from National Geographic and the National Institute on Aging, Buettner found four areas of the world where people reach age 100 at higher-than-normal rates and live longer.

We can stop blaming our family for our life span. As it turns out, life expectancy is only 6 percent based on gene and 94 percent based on environment.

So where are these places that are seemingly equipped with Fountains of Youth?

They're in Southern Okinawa in Japan, the mountain highlands of Sardinia off the Italian coast, the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica and Loma Linda, Calif., (specifically the Seventh-Day Adventists who live there, not the general population). [Seventh-Day Adventists adhere to a vegetarian diet rich in whole grains and nuts, and they abstain from alcohol and smoking.]

Buettner says food is about 25-30 percent of the reason why these people are living longer.

Most of them eat a plant-based diet with minimal processed foods and plenty of built-in cultural mores to keep from eating too much.

The Japanese, for example, follow a principle called "hari hachi bu," which means eat until you're 80 percent full. (Because by the time your brain catches up with your stomach, you will be full.)

Here are more tips, from people who live the longest:

  • They eat off smaller plates.
  • They never have a TV in the kitchen, and families eat together.
  • Good food is on display and easy to eat.
  • They have very active lifestyles, with plenty of walking and gardening.

While you can't pick up and move to rural Central America, there are some things we can all do to help extend our lives (and maybe even shrink our waistlines).

Eat from a smaller plate or bowl. A standard 3-ounce serving of protein (the size of a deck of cards) is dwarfed by our 12-inch plates. A half-cup of pasta (the size of a billiard ball) barely covers the bottom of our oversized "pasta" bowls. Use a small bowl (or even a coffee mug!) and a salad plate for your meals, and you won't feel deprived. (Do this even if you're eating takeout. It's much easier to portion control when you're not eating out of a box or a styrofoam tray.)

Eat less meat. You don't have to swear off meat completely. Just forgo the beef, chicken or pork one or two nights a week. You'll save money and likely consume less fat and cholesterol. (See my previous blog post www.sparkpeople.c
om/mypage_public_journal_i
ndividual.asp?blog_id=1263681
for more tips on eating less meat.)

Keep healthy food around and ready to eat. Wash and chop up veggies, display fruit on the counter in a bowl, and cook healthy whole grains in batches so they're ready to eat. Keep dips and salsas on hand for guilt-free dipping. Veggies and low-fat dip or hummus are suddenly more appealing when you can just grab them and go.

Clear off the table. If your house is like mine, the dining room table becomes a resting place for everything from mail to computers. Clear it off, step away from the TV and eat dinner at the table. When I lived alone in Korea, I found it rather depressing to eat by myself, until I switched off the TV and actually sat at my dining room table. From then on, I'd get out a real plate and chopsticks no matter what I was eating, and I'd spend 20 minutes really savoring my food. I enjoyed my food more, and I stopped overeating.

Eat whole food. Sure, processed foods are tasty and easy to prepare, but think about what you're eating. A good rule of thumb: The closer a food is to its original state, the better it will be for you. You can make pasta with a fresh tomato sauce in the time it takes to make a box of macaroni and cheese, but you'll feel much better after you eat it.

With a few small changes, we can all add years to our lives. Sounds like a great idea to me!
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

2BDYNAMIC 5/11/2014 9:41AM

    Excellent blog and I see why it was voted Popular blog ......... so very informative and wonderful to know and be mindful of! emoticon

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SISTAGIRL86 11/22/2010 12:15PM

  great post!

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SM-ARTGIRL 11/18/2010 8:10PM

    I am putting these destinations on my travel someday wish list!
Their lifestyles seems natural and aligned to mine, even though I live in Urban Australia!

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GIGISPARKY 11/17/2010 10:52AM

    I have not read Dan Buettner's book, so I cannot comment on the scientific validity of the findings -- are the characteristics causes of longevity or self-selected correlations? I am one of the lucky people who do not get sick, despite my inactivity and overeating. I have always basically eaten healthy, with less healthy additions. With the help of SparkPeople and other support, I am making the right changes.

Thanks for the great reminder.

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LUVSBULLDOGS 11/17/2010 2:17AM

    Great blog. It gives us a lot to think about.

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LUVSBULLDOGS 11/17/2010 2:16AM

    Great blog. It gives us a lot to think about.

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WESTCOASTGIRL2 11/16/2010 11:33PM

    These are such valuable bits of information to be reminded of. Thank you for the reminder.

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IMEMINE1 11/16/2010 8:32PM

    How True.
Thank you.

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ALICERIEGER 11/15/2010 7:08PM

    Very Interesting.

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CSULLIVAN604 11/6/2010 11:18AM

    No matter how many times I hear this information, it is always good to hear it again. Thanks for keeping us in check.

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KRITTERKEEPERS 11/4/2010 3:25PM

    Very good!
emoticon

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VGNORMAN 11/2/2010 9:32AM

  If I get a 'big' plate when eating out, I immediately divide the food into 2 sections. Then I eat 1 and take the rest of it home for a second meal. emoticon

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LINDABENEDICT 10/22/2010 8:54PM

    Thanks !

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BMCTRB 10/17/2010 10:55AM

    Thanks for the helpful article.



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JEANNETTE59 10/11/2010 12:34PM

  Thanks for the great blog emoticon

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TDWANDD2MYK9 10/11/2010 4:20AM

    Thanx.

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BRINA421 10/5/2010 1:17PM

    Very helpful. Thank you

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JGROTH51 10/3/2010 8:14PM

    Smaller plates definately help me.

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1NIMUE 9/29/2010 8:14AM

    Very interesting!

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WEGENERCS 8/22/2010 12:07PM

    Thank you. I think we know this information. We just cave in to all the choices we have--you provided a good reminder for all of us.

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RANCHGAL9 8/22/2010 9:33AM

    Great blog and since we all can't up and move to a different location we can certainly be the best we can where we are emoticon for the great suggestions

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GUANAJUATO109 8/16/2010 2:38PM

    Helpful indeed! emoticon

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BIJOUX7 8/11/2010 4:19PM

  Thanks for well presented information!

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JGROTH51 8/8/2010 10:46PM

    All around good advice for a long healthy life.

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DEBHAPPY2B 7/30/2010 2:44PM

    Wow, Thanks. Great tips!

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DANLENO1949 7/23/2010 2:16PM

    Great Tips, Thanks emoticon

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JPRICE217 7/20/2010 8:17AM

    Great tips to live by. Thank you

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PATTISWIMMER 7/12/2010 12:32AM

    Very well written with good information.

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MONIEE2 7/11/2010 11:07AM

    Oh My, Great info, thx for sharing!!!!


emoticon

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BIJOUX7 6/25/2010 10:36AM

  Great information!

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LUVME4MYMIND 6/16/2010 9:29AM

  Thanks!

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FITVALGAL 6/15/2010 11:40AM

    Great blog, and great background photo (Italy?)!

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SPORTSMOM03 6/6/2010 11:02PM

    Great tips! Thanks!

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TAWNYW68 5/31/2010 9:32AM

    Great Blog! My family and I always eat dinner together and at the table no tv, or cell phones allowed!I recently have bought new plates and have gone smaller and no one seems to have noticed! They fill their plates but do not realize they are eating less!
Thanks for sharing the great ideas! emoticon

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LINM15 5/21/2010 2:07AM

  We normally eat on the table, however, the T.V. is near on sight. But you're right this needs to be off, so we can have a quality time listening to each other than to focus on movie/t.v. shows.

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DONNAGRACE1164 5/20/2010 12:15PM

    Thanks for the suggestions. Some of these I've started following already with my own plan and they really work. I definitely use smaller plates and smaller bowls. I pre-portion my food too so that I know exactly what I'm eating calorie-wise and nutrition-wise... And I've been trying to make sure that I have fruit and other healthy foods around to add into my meals and snacks to be more filling and healthier all-around. Great suggestions! emoticon emoticon

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ROSEBTWN2THRNS 5/20/2010 8:28AM

    there's got to be something to not eating in front of the tv... my grandpa is 92, healthy as can be, walks 2 miles a day, and has never owned a tv. =)

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GOFORTHNOW 5/14/2010 6:51PM

  love the coffee cup idea...never thought of this before. emoticon

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ALLIOPP 5/14/2010 11:43AM

  Thanks!! I already use smaller plates and eat pasta out of a coffee mug and it really does help!! Even my husband likes eating off of smaller plates!! emoticon

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BRIDGIRL 5/8/2010 3:01AM

    Excellent advice. I am going to try to switch off the tv and eat at the table-thank you

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FANESSLADYRED 5/4/2010 9:11PM

  THANK FOR THAT BIT OF INFO

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HONEYBEE56 4/18/2010 8:52AM

    Great blog emoticon

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MARPET44 4/2/2010 1:27PM

    I have been using a coffee mug to eat my lunch and breakfast--it keeps me from overloading like I would a bowl. emoticon

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LEONE4MM 3/27/2010 5:24PM

  My brain knows and have read this somewhere but being from another culture, loneliness is what makes me eat mindlessly. Food unlike shopping is the cheaper alternative to shopping, you can only work so much and walk so much and then loneliness kicks in
I stand out like a sore thumb and then what?

I stay up late reading all my sparks and it has help me connect but seriously a human touch does wonders. Thanks, Sparks for being an electronic friend.

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ASHLEYGRACE3 3/26/2010 12:56PM

    Mindless eating in front of the tv is common in my house. I need to work on changing this habit!

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