Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+

Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+

Something called the Danish Twin Study established that only about 10 percent of how long the average person lives, within certain biological limits, is dictated by our genes. The other 90 percent is dictated by our lifestyle. So the premise of Blue Zones: if we can find the optimal lifestyle of longevity we can come up with a de facto formula for longevity. But if you ask the average American what the optimal formula of longevity is, they probably couldn’t tell you. They’ve probably heard of the South Beach Diet, or the Atkins Diet. You have the USDA food pyramid. There is what Oprah tells us. There is what Doctor Oz tells us. The fact of the matter is there is a lot of confusion around what really helps us live longer better. Should you be running marathons or doing yoga? Should you eat organic meats or should you be eating tofu? When it comes to supplements, should you be taking them? How about these hormones or resveratrol? And does purpose play into it? Spirituality? And how about how we socialize? Well, our approach to finding longevity was to team up with National Geographic, and the National Institute on Aging, to find the four demographically confirmed areas that are geographically defined. And then bring a team of experts in there to methodically go through exactly what these people do, to distill down the cross-cultural distillation. And at the end of this I’m going to tell you what that distillation is. But first I’d like to debunk some common myths when it comes to longevity. And the first myth is if you try really hard you can live to be 100. False. The problem is, only about one out of 5,000 people in America live to be 100. Your chances are very low. Even though it’s the fastest growing demographic in America, it’s hard to reach 100. The problem is that we’re not programmed for longevity. We are programmed for something called procreative success. I love that word. It reminds me of my college days. Biologists term procreative success to mean the age where you have children and then another generation, the age when your children have children. After that the effect of evolution completely dissipates. If you’re a mammal, if you’re a rat or an elephant, or a human, in between, it’s the same story. So to make it to age 100, you not only have to have had a very good lifestyle, you also have to have won the genetic lottery. The second myth is, there are treatments that can help slow, reverse, or even stop aging. False. When you think of it, there is 99 things that can age us. Deprive your brain of oxygen for just a few minutes, those brain cells die, they never come back. Play tennis too hard, on your knees, ruin your cartilage, the cartilage never comes back. Our arteries can clog. Our brains can gunk up with plaque, and we can get Alzheimer’s. There is just too many things to go wrong. Our bodies have 35 trillion cells, trillion with a “T.” We’re talking national debt numbers here. (Laughter) Those cells turn themselves over once every eight years. And every time they turn themselves over there is some damage. And that damage builds up. And it builds up exponentially. It’s a little bit like the days when we all had Beatles albums or Eagles albums and we’d make a copy of that on a cassette tape, and let our friends copy that cassette tape, and pretty soon, with successive generations that tape sounds like garbage. Well, the same things happen to our cells. That’s why a 65-year-old person is aging at a rate of about 125 times faster than a 12-year-old person. So, if there is nothing you can do to slow your aging or stop your aging, what am I doing here? Well, the fact of the matter is the best science tells us that the capacity of the human body, my body, your body, is about 90 years, a little bit more for women. But life expectancy in this country is only 78. So somewhere along the line, we’re leaving about 12 good years on the table. These are years that we could get. And research shows that they would be years largely free of chronic disease, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. We think the best way to get these missing years is to look at the cultures around the world that are actually experiencing them, areas where people are living to age 100 at rates up to 10 times greater than we are, areas where the life expectancy is an extra dozen years, the rate of middle age mortality is a fraction of what it is in this country. We found our first Blue Zone about 125 miles off the coast of Italy, on the island of Sardinia. And not the entire island, the island is about 1.4 million people, but only up in the highlands, an area called the Nuoro province. And here we have this area where men live the longest, about 10 times more centenarians than we have here in America. And this is a place where people not only reach age 100, they do so with extraordinary vigor. Places where 102 year olds still ride their bike to work, chop wood, and can beat a guy 60 years younger than them. (Laughter) Their history actually goes back to about the time of Christ. It’s actually a Bronze Age culture that’s been isolated. Because the land is so infertile, they largely are shepherds, which occasions regular, low-intensity physical activity. Their diet is mostly plant-based, accentuated with foods that they can carry into the fields. They came up with an unleavened whole wheat bread called carta musica made out of durum wheat, a type of cheese made from grass-fed animals so the cheese is high in Omega-3 fatty acids instead of Omega-6 fatty acids from corn-fed animals, and a type of wine that has three times the level of polyphenols than any known wine in the world. It’s called Cannonau. But the real secret I think lies more in the way that they organize their society. And one of the most salient elements of the Sardinian society is how they treat older people. You ever notice here in America, social equity seems to peak at about age 24? Just look at the advertisements. Here in Sardinia, the older you get the more equity you have, the more wisdom you’re celebrated for. You go into the bars in Sardinia, instead of seeing the Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar, you see the centenarian of the month calendar. This, as it turns out, is not only good for your aging parents to keep them close to the family — it imparts about four to six years of extra life expectancy — research shows it’s also good for the children of those families, who have lower rates of mortality and lower rates of disease. That’s called the grandmother effect. We found our second Blue Zone on the other side of the planet, about 800 miles south of Tokyo, on the archipelago of Okinawa. Okinawa is actually 161 small islands. And in the northern part of the main island, this is ground zero for world longevity. This is a place where the oldest living female population is found. It’s a place where people have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. They have what we want. They live a long time, and tend to die in their sleep, very quickly, and often, I can tell you, after sex. They live about seven good years longer than the average American. Five times as many centenarians as we have in America. One fifth the rate of colon and breast cancer, big killers here in America. And one sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease. And the fact that this culture has yielded these numbers suggests strongly they have something to teach us. What do they do? Once again, a plant-based diet, full of vegetables with lots of color in them. And they eat about eight times as much tofu as Americans do. More significant than what they eat is how they eat it. They have all kinds of little strategies to keep from overeating, which, as you know, is a big problem here in America. A few of the strategies we observed: they eat off of smaller plates, so they tend to eat fewer calories at every sitting. Instead of serving family style, where you can sort of mindlessly eat as you’re talking, they serve at the counter, put the food away, and then bring it to the table. They also have a 3,000-year-old adage, which I think is the greatest sort of diet suggestion ever invented. It was invented by Confucius. And that diet is known as the Hara, Hatchi, Bu diet. It’s simply a little saying these people say before their meal to remind them to stop eating when their stomach is [80] percent full. It takes about a half hour for that full feeling to travel from your belly to your brain. And by remembering to stop at 80 percent it helps keep you from doing that very thing. But, like Sardinia, Okinawa has a few social constructs that we can associate with longevity. We know that isolation kills. Fifteen years ago, the average American had three good friends. We’re down to one and half right now. If you were lucky enough to be born in Okinawa, you were born into a system where you automatically have a half a dozen friends with whom you travel through life. They call it a Moai. And if you’re in a Moai you’re expected to share the bounty if you encounter luck, and if things go bad, child gets sick, parent dies, you always have somebody who has your back. This particular Moai, these five ladies have been together for 97 years. Their average age is 102. Typically in America we’ve divided our adult life up into two sections. There is our work life, where we’re productive. And then one day, boom, we retire. And typically that has meant retiring to the easy chair, or going down to Arizona to play golf. In the Okinawan language there is not even a word for retirement. Instead there is one word that imbues your entire life, and that word is “ikigai.” And, roughly translated, it means “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” For this 102-year-old karate master, his ikigai was carrying forth this martial art. For this hundred-year-old fisherman it was continuing to catch fish for his family three times a week. And this is a question. The National Institute on Aging actually gave us a questionnaire to give these centenarians. And one of the questions, they were very culturally astute, the people who put the questionnaire. One of the questions was, “What is your ikigai?” They instantly knew why they woke up in the morning. For this 102 year old woman, her ikigai was simply her great-great-great-granddaughter. Two girls separated in age by 101 and a half years. And I asked her what it felt like to hold a great-great-great-granddaughter. And she put her head back and she said, “It feels like leaping into heaven.” I thought that was a wonderful thought. My editor at Geographic wanted me to find America’s Blue Zone. And for a while we looked on the prairies of Minnesota, where actually there is a very high proportion of centenarians. But that’s because all the young people left. (Laughter) So, we turned to the data again. And we found America’s longest-lived population among the Seventh-Day Adventists concentrated in and around Loma Linda, California. Adventists are conservative Methodists. They celebrate their Sabbath from sunset on Friday till sunset on Saturday. A “24-hour sanctuary in time,” they call it. And they follow five little habits that conveys to them extraordinary longevity, comparatively speaking. In America here, life expectancy for the average woman is 80. But for an Adventist woman, their life expectancy is 89. And the difference is even more pronounced among men, who are expected to live about 11 years longer than their American counterparts. Now, this is a study that followed about 70,000 people for 30 years. Sterling study. And I think it supremely illustrates the premise of this Blue Zone project. This is a heterogeneous community. It’s white, black, Hispanic, Asian. The only thing that they have in common are a set of very small lifestyle habits that they follow ritualistically for most of their lives. They take their diet directly from the Bible. Genesis: Chapter one, Verse [29], where God talks about legumes and seeds, and on one more stanza about green plants, ostensibly missing is meat. They take this sanctuary in time very serious. For 24 hours every week, no matter how busy they are, how stressed out they are at work, where the kids need to be driven, they stop everything and they focus on their God, their social network, and then, hardwired right in the religion, are nature walks. And the power of this is not that it’s done occasionally, the power is it’s done every week for a lifetime. None of it’s hard. None of it costs money. Adventists also tend to hang out with other Adventists. So, if you go to an Adventist’s party you don’t see people swilling Jim Beam or rolling a joint. Instead they’re talking about their next nature walk, exchanging recipes, and yes, they pray. But they influence each other in profound and measurable ways. This is a culture that has yielded Ellsworth Whareham. Ellsworth Whareham is 97 years old. He’s a multimillionaire, yet when a contractor wanted 6,000 dollars to build a privacy fence, he said, “For that kind of money I’ll do it myself.” So for the next three days he was out shoveling cement, and hauling poles around. And predictably, perhaps, on the fourth day he ended up in the operating room. But not as the guy on the table; the guy doing open-heart surgery. At 97 he still does 20 open-heart surgeries every month. Ed Rawlings, 103 years old now, an active cowboy, starts his morning with a swim. And on weekends he likes to put on the boards, throw up rooster tails. And then Marge Deton. Marge is 104. Her grandson actually lives in the Twin Cities here. She starts her day with lifting weights. She rides her bicycle. And then she gets in her root-beer colored 1994 Cadillac Seville, and tears down the San Bernardino freeway, where she still volunteers for seven different organizations. I’ve been on 19 hardcore expeditions. I’m probably the only person you’ll ever meet who rode his bicycle across the Sahara desert without sunscreen. But I’ll tell you, there is no adventure more harrowing than riding shotgun with Marge Deton. “A stranger is a friend I haven’t met yet!” she’d say to me. So, what are the common denominators in these three cultures? What are the things that they all do? And we managed to boil it down to nine. In fact we’ve done two more Blue Zone expeditions since this and these common denominators hold true. And the first one, and I’m about to utter a heresy here, none of them exercise, at least the way we think of exercise. Instead, they set up their lives so that they are constantly nudged into physical activity. These 100-year-old Okinawan women are getting up and down off the ground, they sit on the floor, 30 or 40 times a day. Sardinians live in vertical houses, up and down the stairs. Every trip to the store, or to church or to a friend’s house occasions a walk. They don’t have any conveniences. There is not a button to push to do yard work or house work. If they want to mix up a cake, they’re doing it by hand. That’s physical activity. That burns calories just as much as going on the treadmill does. When they do do intentional physical activity, it’s the things they enjoy. They tend to walk, the only proven way to stave off cognitive decline, and they all tend to have a garden. They know how to set up their life in the right way so they have the right outlook. Each of these cultures take time to downshift. The Sardinians pray. The Seventh-Day Adventists pray. The Okinawans have this ancestor veneration. But when you’re in a hurry or stressed out, that triggers something called the inflammatory response, which is associated with everything from Alzheimer’s disease to cardiovascular disease. When you slow down for 15 minutes a day you turn that inflammatory state into a more anti-inflammatory state. They have vocabulary for sense of purpose, ikigai, like the Okinawans. You know the two most dangerous years in your life are the year you’re born, because of infant mortality, and the year you retire. These people know their sense of purpose, and they activate in their life, that’s worth about seven years of extra life expectancy. There’s no longevity diet. Instead, these people drink a little bit every day, not a hard sell to the American population. (Laughter) They tend to eat a plant-based diet. Doesn’t mean they don’t eat meat, but lots of beans and nuts. And they have strategies to keep from overeating, little things that nudge them away from the table at the right time. And then the foundation of all this is how they connect. They put their families first, take care of their children and their aging parents. They all tend to belong to a faith-based community, which is worth between four and 14 extra years of life expectancy if you do it four times a month. And the biggest thing here is they also belong to the right tribe. They were either born into or they proactively surrounded themselves with the right people. We know from the Framingham studies, that if your three best friends are obese there is a 50 percent better chance that you’ll be overweight. So, if you hang out with unhealthy people, that’s going to have a measurable impact over time. Instead, if your friend’s idea of recreation is physical activity, bowling, or playing hockey, biking or gardening, if your friends drink a little, but not too much, and they eat right, and they’re engaged, and they’re trusting and trustworthy, that is going to have the biggest impact over time. Diets don’t work. No diet in the history of the world has ever worked for more than two percent of the population. Exercise programs usually start in January; they’re usually done by October. When it comes to longevity there is no short term fix in a pill or anything else. But when you think about it, your friends are long-term adventures, and therefore, perhaps the most significant thing you can do to add more years to your life, and life to your years. Thank you very much. (Applause)

99 thoughts on “Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+

  1. yes we have cells ,but what are the building blocks of cells ? exactly elements and atoms . Quantum physics is the science that deals with the behaviour of atoms. If our insights grow in this cience we will be able to deal with ageing in the future .
    Blue zones is good for the time being. Keep it on for thre time being

  2. The fact that the centenarians are located on isolated islands shouts 'genetics' in my face. And the living conditions: 'old people with young in large families' are the same in large parts of the world.
    Actually aren't the longlivity conditions he points out the ones of almost all poor countries? Low calories, plant based diet respected elders? Doesn't seem to work for them.

  3. Are you serious with the graphic at 12:37?! You don't have to trick people….
    Start from Zero as any serious scientist would and i'm with you again, but the graphic shown is just for effect and fooling dumb viewers.

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  5. None of those groups live in the southern hemisphere either; therefore, it is bad for your health to live in the southern hemisphere.

  6. Right. I'm aggravated. My brother resides in the opposite room. I'm annoyed because he over recent weeks grew really good at attracting all women. He discovered the Master Attraction site (Search in Google) by Jake Ayres. Now I hear him bringing chicks back. He's consistently pulling females back. I hear it. It's yucky and If only he never discovered that site.

  7. After working at a Cancer Center for 11 yrs I'd have to say from what I've seen, there is no rhyme or reason. From my experience biology plays more of a role than lifestyle. My grandmother lived to 100 and pretty much lived off of honeybuns and mountain dew for 40 yrs- never got any exercise. A friend of mine eats fast food a lot and his blood numbers are much better than mine- and I eat very healthy.

  8. While the blue zones provide some data we can learn and live from, science has also given us nutritional information. The main thing I disagree with is his early comment that we cannot slow the aging process. In fact we can, and the researchers have earned a Nobel Prize for exactly that.

  9. Rebecca Carley is an anti-vaxxer, listed on quackwatch and even got her license revoked. She can die (with measles) and rot under a tree for all I care.

  10. Personal anecdotes are not evidence. If you can measure those parameters you just mentioned on 10 000 people, then you can start playing with correlations.

  11. I can't argue with a fool and you are probably a troll.You can't educate a fool either, they hate instruction. I pray for your eyes to be opened and don't frustrate yourself. If you read Carleys page, you would have had your eyes opened, but that is not your objective obviously you are on the dark side.

  12. I was thinking less about physical activity but more about not being able to control your bladder. I know full well you can have vigor at that age but all the other little things like aches/pains and shitting your pants is still with you I'd imagine.

  13. besides, human lifespan is around 120 years or so, give or take a few years. I'm not gonna stress about 20 years. Some people do whatever it takes to live longer. I'm not one of them buddy boy.

  14. God. I have just become incredibly green with envy of my nephew. He’s actually been single endlessly. However, he got a part-time model to say to him she has fallen in love with him in less than a month. How can that be possible? He laughed and said he used the Cupid Love System (Google it!) I wish someone wonderful told me that… I do not recall ever seeing him so fulfilled. Kinda makes me frustrated.

  15. Dan really knows his stuff and his team with the National Geographic Society came up with a no nonsense way of living based on real people in real places one study at a time. Great work that you did Dan Buettner.   Holistic Chef Barry 

  16. I think the greatest uplifter of longevity will be a computer assistant that is part of your glasses or wristwatch that monitors your health and predicts what you need to do to take care of yourself. I need a computer to handle to petty shit so I can do the real stuff.

  17. It would've been ideal to live to be 100 years 100 years ago. But now the world's population is up to 7 billion people. People are selfish. And if you're religious, especially if you believe in one of the three Abrahamic religions, why wouldn't you want a shorten your life, since you know your God awaits you in heaven?

  18. this guy is neglecting the biggest factor attributable to Okinawan's and ALL Japanese people's longevity: their diet consists of fish. sushi is good for you. it's not the tofu. it's the fish.

  19. He's on the right track. The true secret to long life includes activity as he said, but not just any activity, activity which causes us to look forward to doing it again. That is one of the reasons after retirement ppl grow old so rapidly.

    The second is belief. Those who believe in their culture, lifestyle etc will live longer than those who have no belief system about life.

    The 3rd and well known secret is reduced stress. Stress is not restricted to pressure from work. It includes tangible things like posture or eating habits or even intangible things like the types of thoughts haboured.

    The body, through the mind, can regenerate every cell and even compensate for telomere length shortening.

  20. 5:56 Wood ashes!!!!!, they still use wood as a fuel for cooking, wood ashes are minerals that are left when the wood is burnt up. Wood ash = Minerals, get into the food when cooking, salt is cut with wood ashes and mixed in to reduce price, wood ash is also used for gardening, putting left over ashes in the soil for crops, crops suck up the minerals, no empty harvest. Okinawa's do the same thing, they also put wood ashes into their rice straw noodles which give a yellow color. No mineral deficiencies, very unlikely to come upon disease. I would propose Minerals are the main key to longevity. 🙂 Learned all this from famed Veterinarian Pathologist Researcher and Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Joel Wallach. 🙂

  21. I believe I have found the best diet.  For about six years, I've been living entirely on fluid milk products, skim milk and cream.  Many's the day when I've drunk two gallons, or 7.5 liters, of skim milk.  I find that my weight stays very healthy on this diet, and I feel good because milk is very easy to digest and use.

  22. family. a purpose filled life. father, mother,children,grandparents.this is how you live long. somewhere along the way we've lost that bond

  23. Who did the subtitles, looks as if it was a machine, there's "heat" instead of "eat" and many many other mistakes which make the text difficult to understand. There's no sentences, full stops.

  24. The presenter made some mistakes here:
    1. Plant-based diet: Sardinians longevity attributed to lamb, piglet, milk and cheese. Okinawans longevity are due to pork consumption.

    2. Diets don't work: Diets work.

    TED should've had more independent scientists to curate these type of information before misleading the viewer.

  25. high nutrient, calorie restriction diet has been shown to slow aging. This guy says there are no ways to slow aging??????

  26. what the point of that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    our life according to information i took it from calculus lecture is zero …….

    because if you take 100 years as a percentage from infant number (( which is the amount of time that we will be in grave if you do not believe in restriction or the amount of time that you will be in the heaven after life )) the result will be zero so your life now is zero zerooo this is the reality of our life zero according to this mathematical information

  27. Watched this video during a College Happiness Health Class. Being raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist, I had to point out this. Adventists are not conservative Methodists.

  28. ReMineralizing the soil, will improve longevity. Soils are depleted, because we are not following Gods 7th year rule for soil.

  29. good talk, but the emphasis on a PlANT BASED Diet had to be greater. there is the vegetarian Adventists association and the Okinawan's are 90-95% Vegan.

  30. I don't understand how in Sardinia, the land is infertile, yet they still have a very plant based diet? How? I would imagine it would be a pescatarian diet with other meats and cheeses.

  31. I agree with Mr. Buettner, if you do what you're told by your doctors and you keep yourself healthy, you'll live past 100 years. What he said in the video is to surround yourself with trustworthy, good habit people, that alone will benefit yourself as a person and your lifespan. I believe the key to living longer is having a strong relationships with the people you love most. Also, if you have healthy parents, it's more than likely you'll grow up eating healthy and making good diet decisions. Another way to boost your lifespan is to stay working and become a hard worker. Therefore, you're staying busy and getting your exercise in simple daily activities. Another way is to become married. It's proven men live up to 10 years more than non-married men and women live up to 4 years more than non-married women. I couldn't agree more with this TED talk and it's such a shame how low our societies lifespan is now because of all the unethical and bad decisions we're choosing for our bodies.

  32. Sin of omission what is and is not eaten: These diets are high in saturated fats (butter, duck fat, pig fat), moderate in proteins and vegetables and very low in refined sugar and carbs (bread, candy, sodas, etc.)

  33. I would like to see data supporting your idea that social isolation leads to a longer or a happier life.

  34. Brilliant! I have just surrounded myself with more adventure because of the reason I get up each day!

  35. It would be interesting to know the immigration and emigration statistics for Sardinia and Okinawa Island. The Seventh Day Adventists have a very high turn-over rate (for every 100 people who join, 43 leave) and so the trend of them living longer on average could be more to do with the fact that certain types of people stay and certain types leave. So genetics might also play in it but also the possibility that the cultures attract more older people anyway and so inevitably they will have a higher concentration of people over 100. Lifestyle must be a big part of it too

  36. Isolated people's are basically breeding within small groups and are selecting for long life. Add people from the outside, or have them go out into the world and their advantage would go away very quickly.

  37. The speaker brings up Genesis as a biblical reference to diet in the bible. But neglects leviticus which explains how most fowl besides chicken is forbidden, shellfish is forbidden, pork is forbidden, But Fish, Beef, Lamb, Chicken are all healthy.

  38. As he said in the video, he wasn't saying that the centenarians ate a plant-based diet. Instead, he was describing the diet of everyone in the island or country, which included the many poor people in these regions, who couldn't afford much meat. In contrast, in the Barbagia region of Sardinia, where the centenarians are, they do eat a lot of meat, suckling pig being a particular favorite. In fact, in 2011, Sardinians called for formal recognition of their excellent diet, insisting that “the secret to a long life can be found in their traditional diet of lamb, roast piglet, milk and cheese", and not in eating 90% plants. Interestingly, this is similar to Costa Ricans, as well as the Danish (the happiest people on the planet), where they eat a lot of pork as well. This makes sense, because pork is one of the best sources of B vitamins, zinc and iron, which give us an upbeat mood. Also, unlike plant foods, pork and pork fat supplies arachidonic acid and DHA, the essential fats that are needed to stop inflammation, for energy, digestion, heart and bone health, and also for acetylcholine, which is needed for the focused, calm and content alpha state-our happy place!

  39. I don't think its diet. It's more community, social interaction, and lifestyle. America has destroyed this aspect of life, how many people have a strong Ikigai? If you're interested in hearing more about this, check out Sebastian Junger.

  40. Why just 100? I'm working on my next book" Searching for a key to eternal life" My own 5 years experience has shown that the best way to follow is is raw food diet.

  41. "Here in America. Here in America. Here in America." This is half-assed. Sorry for the criticism but I have a hard time taking that kind of ignorant yapping seriously. For Americans the Seventh Day Adventists seem to have the most to offer since we don't live on islands surrounded by fellow Sardinians or Okinawans. But this half-assed expert then says they all drink a little bit. Not true, Adventists don't drink. I do though. National Geo. I subscribe to. Mr. Buettner, sharpen up your routine and stop the endless "America" as if we were too stupid to know we live in the US or that Adventists don't drink.

  42. מעולה !!! זה סותר ובצדק את כל החארטות והבולשיט שמוכרים לנו בקופ''ח … משרד הבריאות לא רוצה/אוהב אנשים בריאים . . .

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