From NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, this is a very cool discussion about "blue zones," the five places on the Earth where people tend to live significantly longer than the rest of us. Her (actually Susan Page is sitting in for Diane) guest is Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest.
One of the very cool stories is of a Greek immigrant to the U.S. who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at age 60 and decides to return to his home island of Ikaria to die among his people, except that he didn't. He went home, spent time with friends and family, returned to his church, consumed the local diet heavy on vegetables, fish, and red wine, and even began growing his own grapes and making his own wine - he is now 97 years old. Here is his story from the New York Times Magazine:
Moraitis [in the picture above] considered staying in America and seeking aggressive cancer treatment at a local hospital. That way, he could also be close to his adult children. But he decided instead to return to Ikaria, where he could be buried with his ancestors in a cemetery shaded by oak trees that overlooked the Aegean Sea. He figured a funeral in the United States would cost thousands, a traditional Ikarian one only $200, leaving more of his retirement savings for his wife, Elpiniki. Moraitis and Elpiniki moved in with his elderly parents, into a tiny, whitewashed house on two acres of stepped vineyards near Evdilos, on the north side of Ikaria. At first, he spent his days in bed, as his mother and wife tended to him. He reconnected with his faith. On Sunday mornings, he hobbled up the hill to a tiny Greek Orthodox chapel where his grandfather once served as a priest. When his childhood friends discovered that he had moved back, they started showing up every afternoon. They’d talk for hours, an activity that invariably involved a bottle or two of locally produced wine. I might as well die happy, he thought.Read the whole article - it's a great story.
In the ensuing months, something strange happened. He says he started to feel stronger. One day, feeling ambitious, he planted some vegetables in the garden. He didn’t expect to live to harvest them, but he enjoyed being in the sunshine, breathing the ocean air. Elpiniki could enjoy the fresh vegetables after he was gone.
Six months came and went. Moraitis didn’t die. Instead, he reaped his garden and, feeling emboldened, cleaned up the family vineyard as well. Easing himself into the island routine, he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until midafternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he often walked to the local tavern, where he played dominoes past midnight. The years passed. His health continued to improve. He added a couple of rooms to his parents’ home so his children could visit. He built up the vineyard until it produced 400 gallons of wine a year. Today, three and a half decades later, he’s 97 years old — according to an official document he disputes; he says he’s 102 — and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria.
Photo credit: Blue Zones
Human longevity is thought to be explained by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. But recent studies show that as much as 90 percent of life expectancy may be determined by habits. Several years ago, a team of National Geographic scientists identified four regions in the world where people live the longest. In these so-called “Blue Zones,” residents experience far lower rates of chronic disease than Americans do. And people who live in these zones share common habits: they eat mostly plants, are spiritual and have strong ties with family and friends. Now, researchers have identified a fifth Blue Zone: the island of Ikaria, Greece. Author and explorer Dan Buettner on lessons for a long life from the world’s oldest people.
Dan Buettner: author, explorer, fellow, National Geographic Society.
Related VideoDan Buettner presented "How to live to be 100+" at TED in September 2009. To find the path to long life and health, Buettner studies the world's "Blue Zones," communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. In his talk, he shares the nine common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100.
Read An Excerpt
Excerpt from "The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest" by Dan Buettner. Copyright 2012 by Dan Buettner. Reprinted here by permission of National Geographic. All rights reserved.