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Adding years to your life

  • August 27, 2012 - 8:45 PM

The world's healthiest people -- many of them more than 100 years old -- get that way partly because how they live makes life-extending choices also the easy choices, researchers say. Here are some lessons from the Blue Zone areas of Okinawa, Costa Rica, Sardinia, Greece and Loma Linda, Calif., that can add healthy years to your life:

MOVEMENT: + 4 YEARS

Just move. The world's oldest people don't join gyms. They live where life nudges them to move without thinking, in houses with stairs and gardens. They walk to the store, a friend's house, a place of worship, and do their own housework.

OUTLOOK: + 4 YEARS

Have purpose. Know why you get up each day -- called ikigai in Okinawa and plan de vida in Costa Rica. Do an internal inventory and identify your values, passions, gifts and talents. What do you like to do? Put your skills into action.

Downshift. Everyone has stress, but the longest-lived have routines to shed it. Okinawans take time daily to remember ancestors, Costa Ricans take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour. Find a strategy for you and make it routine.

EAT WISELY: + 8 YEARS

80% rule. Follow the 2,500-year-old mantra from Okinawa, Hara hachi bu, and stop eating when you feel 80 percent full. Use smaller dishes, remove TVs from the kitchen and use leftovers. Blue Zone people often eat their smallest and last meal in late afternoon or early evening.

Plant slant. Eat meat if you want, but choose the leanest and best cuts you can afford. Consider it a condiment. Limit portions to the size of a deck of cards, twice a week. Beans are basic in most centenarian diets.

Wine @ 5. Moderate drinkers outlive nondrinkers. You can take one or two drinks later in the day with friends or food.

CONNECT: + 4 YEARS

Belong. All but five of 263 Blue Zone centenarians interviewed belonged to a faith-based community. Weekly services can add four to 14 years of life.

Loved ones first. Blue Zone centenarians put their families first. Parents and grandparents live nearby or together, build positive relationships and invest time and love in children.

Right tribe. The longest-lived people choose or are born into social groups that support healthy behavior. Okinawans create moais, small groups of friends for life. Friends affect smoking, obesity and happiness.

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