Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest


By Dan Buettner

National Geographic, 2008

When I saw this book on a friend’s coffee table recently, the title intrigued me, and the subtitle lit up my neurons!

If living a longer, healthier life appeals to you, this book is an entertaining and sometimes moving account of the lifestyles of the world’s most advanced seniors.  There are amazing photos and stories of people in their 90’s and over 100, doing everything from lifting weights to water skiing.

The author visited “the world’s confirmed longevity hotspots….the Barbagia region of Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, the community of Loma Linda in California, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.”  These are areas of the world where people routinely live, in good health, and with a sense of purpose, into their 90’s and beyond.

Buettner spent time in each region and chatted with the elders, discovering the daily habits that kept them strong, healthy, and productive at an age when many North Americans have long since passed on, or are living in wheelchairs.

Buettner offers tips from each region on lifestyle choices that may help the reader to live longer and healthier.  They are seemingly simple habits like food eaten, company kept, and mental outlook adopted.

There’s also a “Vitality Compass” quiz available on the Blue Zones website.  While I don’t agree with all the measuring parameters in the quiz, it gave me an idea of my life expectancy based on my current habits.

The author concludes the book by describing nine habits that we can adopt to increase our life expectancy.  These are: moderate daily exercise;  eating till only 80% full; consuming a plant-based diet;  red wine consumption; having a sense of purpose; managing stress wisely; belonging to a spiritual community; putting family first; and having a like-minded circle of support.