Friday, February 20, 2015

East Hawaii Blue Zones Project

East Hawaii, which includes Hilo, was selected as one of 3 communities in the state of Hawaii as a Blue Zones project by HSMA, Blue Zones LLC, and Healthways Inc.  The Island of Kauai has been a Blue Zones Project pilot since 2013.

According to Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, people in the Blue Zones he identified reach age 100 at 10 times the average rate.  Blue Zones LLC states that only 20% of how long a person lives is because of their genes; the other 80% is due to their lifestyle and environment. 

The Blue Zones project has best practices for communities to improve the lifestyle and environment for the residents. In Albert Lea, Minnesota, a Blue Zones project since 2009, the residents lost a total of 12,000 pounds, cut their health care costs, and added over 3 years to the residents’ average life expectancy.    

To be selected as a Blue Zones project, the community must have broad buy-in within the community including local leaders, schools, employers, restaurants, and grocery stores who agree to support the program.  In addition, at least 20% of the citizens must sign a personal pledge to take actions to improve their well-being which include eating wisely, moving naturally, making changes at home, connecting socially, and finding a purpose.

The personal pledges are based on 9 shared traits of the world’s longest lived people that Buettner identified.  Summaries of these traits listed on bluezones.com website include:

Move Naturally The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron or run marathons or join gyms. Their environments nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
Purpose Why do you wake up in the morning? Knowing your sense of purpose adds up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
Down Shift Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to reduce their stress.
80% Rule “Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawans say this mantra before meals as a reminder to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. That could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it.
Plant Slant The cornerstone of most centenarian diets are beans. They typically eat meat, mostly pork, only five times per month.
Wine  Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, especially if they share those drinks with friends.
Belong Attending faith-based services four times a month adds 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.
Loved Ones First Centenarians put their families first. They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby, commit to a life partner, and invest time and love in their children.
Right Tribe They world’s longest lived people chose or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors.


East Hawaii is the perfect place for a Blue Zone project as it already has many of the nine shared traits listed above. When we researched our book on “Why People in Hawaii are so Healthy and Happy” we found lots of reasons why people in Hawaii already live longer and have better health than the rest of the US. 

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