I recently met Dan Buettner at a Strategy Summit sponsored by Adventist Health. Dan is the author of the book "Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve lived the Longest." His research has been featured in the National Geographic several times. Besides being well traveled, an excellent researcher and a fun person to be around, Dan is committed to helping people understand how to live longer and happier lives.
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we share with Dan, a love for all people and a desire for them to live healthier, happy lives filled with purpose. Out of his research came the concept Blue Zones, five areas of the world where people lived longer, healthier lives — longevity often over 100 years old. One of those Blue Zones he identified was Loma Linda, California — the home of Loma Linda University and Hospital. He specifically identified Seventh-day Adventists living in that area and their healthy lifestyle.
Dan's research led the development of what he calls the Power 9. These nine concepts will sound very familiar to those familiar with our Adventist principles of healthy living. The Power 9 are as follows:
- Move Naturally – most of the world’s longest living people do not exercise in gyms or run marathons. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving. They grow gardens, do yard work and walk.
- Purpose – in all the Blue Zones, people have something to live for beyond just work. Having a sense of purpose will increase your longevity by seven years.
- Downshift – the world’s healthiest people have a way to deal with stress. Stress, found in every Blue Zone, leads to inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. Dan discovered Adventists pray, have worship, experience Sabbath rest, read the Bible and are physically active.
- 80% Rule – Blue Zone people stop eating when they are 80% full – they do not overeat. They eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and do not eat any more the rest of the day.
- Plant Slant – beans are the cornerstone of most Blue Zone diets. They rarely eat meat and when they do, it’s a very small serving. The vegetarian diet is natural for longevity.
- Friends at 5 — Spark more happiness by sharing your day with others. The benefits of daily connection with friends and family come from ending work at a reasonable hour and enjoying time each day to destress and socialize.
- Belong – most people living in a Blue Zone belong to a faith-based community. Research revealed that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4 to 14 years to life expectancy. Authentic spiritual life makes people healthier and happier.
- Loved Ones First – Blue Zone communities put their families first. They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or at home, which also lowers the disease and mortality rates of their children. They commit to a life partner (which can add three years of life) and invest in their children with time and love.
- Right Tribe – the world’s longest living and happiest people were born into or choose to live in social groups that support healthy behaviors. Health behaviors are shaped, for good or bad, by social networks.
There are many similarities between Dan Buettner’s research and the Adventist health principles we began to promote more than 100 years ago. The purpose is the same, to help all people to live longer, healthier and happier lives.
The current pandemic we are living through has caused many people to look for ways to live healthier and happier lives. Our Adventist lifestyle and health message speak powerfully to a huge need the world has now. This is one reason Adventist Health is working with Dan Buettner to discover better ways to empower people to live longer, happier and healthier lives.
I invite you today, by the grace and power of God’s love, to authentically embrace our Adventist health principles and gracefully encourage others to do the same. Not only will you live longer, healthier and happier lives, but so will those you gracefully encourage. And hearts will be open to see God’s love.