Phil Hauck's TEC Blog

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Blue Zones Are … and Mean!

On November 13, I traveled to Portland, OR, to attend a Oregon Healthiest State Initiative conference … because my daughter, Katie, put it together.
I’d be happy to talk about that further, but what I want to share with you is that Dan Buettner, the founder of the Blue Zones Project, spoke … and did the best job I’ve heard of explaining what the Blue Zones lessons are … and why they’re important.
As you’d expect, I’ve “written up” his talk; see below.  Please take time to read it, slowly, and embrace its lessons.
The Blue Zones are the five places in the world where people live to be, on average, age 90, and have the highest percentage of centenarians in the world.  “They forgot to die.”
It’s about life style … and Buettner and his researchers found Nine common factors.
You need to know what they are, because …
You’re spending way too much of your family’s income on health insurance and medical expenses … and we all need to change our life styles so we stay much more fit and healthy, and avoid those expenses.
Now, please read ...

Blue Zones are the five places in the world where people live on average to age 90, and have the highest percentage of centenarians in the world.  Those places are:
•  Loma Linda, CA, USA ... 7th Day Adventists.  Sabbath is Saturday, a de-stress day.  Plant-based diet.
•  Village on island of Sardinia, off Italy’s coast ... High concept of community, zeal for family.  Grandmother involvement yields lower rates of disease and mortality.
•  Ikaria, a Greek island ... The island where people forget to die.  Pure Mediterranean diet.  Almost no dimentia.
•  Okinawa, a Japanese island ... Lots of vegetables, sweet potatoes.  Eat little.  No loneliness.  No word for ‘retirement.”
•  Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica ... Main diet is three of the healthiest foods.

We know that longevity is influenced 20% by your genes ... and 80% by your lifestyle behaviors!  So, the biggest predictor of long life is your lifestyle.
Consider these questions:
•  Do you sleep at least 8 hours, five days a week?
•  Do you “move” at least 30 minutes a day?
•  Do you eat three servings of vegetables a day?
•  Do you have three good friends you see frequently?
•  Do you belong to a faith-based community, and show up at least 4 times a month?
•  Have you not smoked at all the past five years?
•  Do you have the capacity and desire to reach 90?  A self-assessment.
If you answered Yes 7 times, you’re likely to live to age 88 if you’re a man, and to 92 if you’re a woman.

I and my researchers went to these five places to analyze why long life resulted, and to find the common factors.  There are NINE of them:
•  Move Naturally:  Walking, pedaling, hiking, climbing, swimming, most of the day
Have the Right Outlook
  •  Lower Stress
  •  Have a Sense of Purpose
Eat Wisely
  •  Plant Slant:  Beans are great!
  •  80% Rule:  Stop eating when you’re 80% full.
  •  Wine at 5:  Red wine, with friends.
  •  Belong to a Faith-Based Community, and meet with them at least 4 times monthly.  (Adds 14 years to life expectancy!)
  •  Families First:  Especially including grandmothers.
  •  Belong to Supportive Groups, ones that support healthy behaviors.

So, how can we get these traits to be replicated in our societies?  None of these people had t-shirts for running a 10K, nor belonged to a fitness club.  Their lifestyle behaviors were influenced/ driven by their ENVIRONMENT!  When you look closely, this approach becomes intuitively obvious.  Obese people aren’t still obese because they choose to.  They’ve tried everything to lose weight ... as individuals!  We’re products of the people and groups we choose to be a part of, whom we’re comfortable with.  If our families and/or friends are chubbier, we’ll tend there.  If they smoke, we’ll tend there.  If they ....., we’ll tend there.
And if we stimulate groups that embrace healthy behaviors, in environments which don’t include bad influences, and have lots of good influences, we can upgrade the health culture significantly.
And we have.

We experimented in 2009 with Albert Lea, Minnesota, which already had some good things going.  It was a “ready community.”  We deployed a five-person, well-trained team.  Their charge was to encourage more of the good things that already existed, getting even more buy-in ... and to work to get leadership groups (mayor, city council, school boards, principals, business leaders) to embrace other good things.
We created lots of activity to emulate a “Perfect Storm.”  We used t-shirts, creative group efforts, classes ... We evaluated grocery stores and restaurants for how “healthy” their offerings were ... and they became “Blue Zone” certified.
We learned that ...
•  We need a big storyline that embraced everything, and increased pride in the community ... and kept telling stories that emulated that brand image.
•  We developed measures, audited by third parties, that could show continuing progress.
•  We institutionalized what we did not as a program ... but as an operating system.
•  We didn’t rest on first year success ... but persisted over several years.  Ingraining these habits would take 3-5 years.
•  We tested different ideas, and when they worked, we scaled them up.
The result:  Within several years, Albert Lea citizens, on average, had adopted behaviors that had extended their lives by 3 years ... not sick years, but healthy years.  And by more as the behaviors deepened, became more consistent.
This has all been extensively documented in the literature, and in National Geographic magazine.

Now, we’ve partnered with Healthways, a Nashville disease management company, to develop teams that can work with other communities.  We’ve completed an effort with three Los Angeles Beach Cities (Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan) ... with similar results.
Now, we have contracts with both Iowa and Hawaii for “healthiest state” initiatives, and with Fort Worth and, in Florida, Collier County (Naples).  And we’re talking to others.

We know that 84% of medical costs are explained by physical inactivity, food choices and portion size, tobacco and unmanaged stress.  We’re hard-wired to seek fat and sugar, and rest when we can.  That’s how we survived for years in active agricultural and industrial economies, but it works much less well in our sedentary information-based civilization.
We need to adopt a different model!  Not ones initiated by government or hospitals.  All the financial gains are aligned with treating sickness, not health.  It’s the wrong way to look at it.

We need to re-construct ourselves in a culturally appropriate way ... making the healthy choice the easy, indeed unavoidable, choice!

Phil Hauck   Nov. 2014

1 comment:

  1. Phil, I always get depressed and stressed out when I read these formula's for health and long lfe. Other than that, I've eliminated stress! Have a great Thanksgiving. Take Care, Dave (aka Big Daddy Dave