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Nat Geo Explorer's Book Details Places Where People Live Longer — And How

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A National Geographic fellow has unveiled a book discussing the secrets to a long and healthy life.

Dan Buettner, an explorer and author for the National Geographic, has spent 10 years traveling the world in search of places with the highest rates of people to reach the age of 100. He recorded his findings in his book, The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People.

According to Buettner, genetics only determines around 20 percent of our average lifespan. In order to lead a longer life, a combination of good genes and a well-developed lifestyle is needed.

"I call it silver buckshot [approach]," Buettner said in a recent interview. "It's 20 or 30 little things that you can transport from places like Sardinia — and bring them home and have them work for you."

Sardinia is an island located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It was there that Buettner met shepherds who live long in spite of difficult conditions.

"They had mostly a plant-based diet for most of their lives. And I think there's a level of social connectivity that comes from having to survive in really harsh conditions," Buettner remarked. "It looks beautiful, but life is tough back there."

As proof of Sardinian longevity, Buettner pointed to a village where six out of every 3,000 people live to 100 years. This average is considerably higher compared with the United States, where for every 5,000 people, only one person reaches the age of 100.

Aside from Sardinia, Buettner and his team also discovered four other Blue Zones: Okinawa in Japan, Ikaria in Greece, the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica, and Loma Linda in California.

Buettner explained that one of the biggest differences between the average American lifestyle and that of people living in Blue Zones is the amount of physical activity.

Buettner's team noted that residents in these areas are consistently doing some form of physical exercise — every 20 minutes. They do so either by walking to a friend's house, making their way down to their garden, or kneading bread with their hands. It is very much a part of their natural movement.

Having a "hibernative" lifestyle also won't contribute to a longer life, Buettner explained. That's when a person sits for more than 90 minutes in a day. In this instance, what you eat for breakfast will often end up on your hips. This is not the case for people in Blue Zones, thanks to their peripatetic lifestyle.

Aside from a regular exercise regimen, Buettner also stressed the importance of a plant-based diet in Blue Zones. One staple in their diet is beans — which he believes can add about two years to person's life expectancy if eaten daily.

Buettner said people in Blue Zones not only have longer lifespans, they also tend to die quickly without suffering through long period of sickness. Buettner's book outlines different steps on how to lengthen ones lifespan by avoiding chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, dementia and diabetes.

Brad Higham | Flickr

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