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Health & Exercise Forum

Celebrating Life: Part 5 of 5

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Jun 29, 2015

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise Forum10th ANNIVERSARY Series of 5 Columns Celebrating Life!

Part 5 of 5

 “Health and Exercise Forum” by Dr. Paul Mackarey, completes its 10TH year in June of 2015 …THANK YOU! Thank you for your kind words, positive (and negative) feedback in the form of phone calls, texts, emails and simple chats on the streets. I am grateful and humbled. In honor of the 10th anniversary of “Health and Exercise Forum,” I decided to write a series of columns that encapsulates the most important messages regarding health and wellness, base on current wisdom. Readers in NEPA seem to be consistently interested in is health, wellness and longevity. While I have written about this repeatedly, in many different ways, over the past 10 years, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some new information. Please enjoy and embrace the wisdom of those centenarians both from NEPA and from around the globe and let me know your thoughts.


Academics have long suspected that there are specific clusters of people around the globe who significantly outlive the general population. This concept provoked National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner, to travel around the world in an attempt to study geographic locations around the world that had the greatest concentration of centenarians. He and his research team further studied their cultures and social habits to determine commonalities among these people and their habitats. He discovered that DNA is only one of many ingredients for a long and healthy life. His book, The Blue Zone, details his findings and here is a summary of what they found…

Buettner and his team identified five specific locations on the planet where people seem to have found the “secrets of a long life:” Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California. But, Buettner and his team were not just impressed with the age of the people they met in these zones, but the active lifestyle they maintained, even at 102 years of age. For example, he met a 94 year old man from Costa Rica, who continues to work as a farmer and a 102 year old woman from Sardinia, who hikes at least 6 miles every day. He designated these “Blue Zones” as special places where several common traits contributed to longevity; strong social structure, plant-based diet, moderate consumption of food and daily physical activity. Researchers hope that with lessons learned from the “blue zones” and their people, in combination with scientific discovery, technology and modern medicine, that other people can create their own healthy spaces, change lifestyles and live longer, healthier and happier lives. 




From, National Geographic Explorer and New York Times best-selling author, Dan Buettner, author of , “Blue Zones” and “Power 9R,”assembled a team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists to discover scientific support for the most common characteristics associated with a long and active life represented in all 5 blue zones. These nine common denominators are referred to as “Power 9R”and offer other people on the planet necessary information to create their own “Blue Zone,” to live longer, healthier, happier lives! This is what they discovered:

  1. “Move Naturally”
 Inhabitants of “Blue Zones” don’t lift weights, run marathons or belong to fitness centers. Instead, they live and work in environments that require walking, lifting, laboring in natural ways...without thinking about it. For example, they tend their gardens and maintain their homes without mechanical conveniences.
  2. “Purpose” The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” According to Buettner’s team, having a sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
  3. “Down Shift”
 Blue Zone inhabitants, as in all places on the planet, experience stress. Research shows that stress leads to chronic inflammation, which in turn, contributes to age-related diseases. In “Blue Zones,” stress relieve does not come in a bottle of pills. Instead, according to Buettner, “Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.”
  4. “80% Rule”
 “Hara hachi bu”  – for 2500 years, Okinawans, recite this Confucian mantra before meals as a reminder not to over indulge…stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. It is believed that the 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the key ingredient for weight control. According to Buettner, “people in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.”
  5. “Plant Slant”
 Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, provide the fundamentals of “Blue Zone” centenarian diets. The research team also found that meat, mostly pork, is eaten on average only five times per month and serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of deck of cards.
  6. “Wine @ 5”
 According to Buettner, “people in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly.  Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.” However, the key is to drink 1-2 glasses per day with friends and/or with food. Saving up for the weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday night does not count!
  7. “Belong”
 The vast majority of centenarians interviewed by the team belonged to some faith-based community.  While denomination does not seem to matter, research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.
  8. “Loved Ones First” 
A resounding theme among centenarians in the Blue Zones is “family first.” Aging parents and grandparents live nearby or in the home. The team discovered that they commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love. This behavior insures that it is more likely that they will care for you when the time comes…and the cycle continues.
  9. “Right Tribe”
According to Buettner, “The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So, the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.”

In conclusion, DNA is only part of the equation to live a long and happy life. You can create your own “Blue Zone” and exceed your life expectancy by adopting the “Power 9R” principles. Living in the stress and frenzy of the USA is not an excuse…as demonstrated by the Adventists, the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by adopting a Blue Zone lifestyle.

SOURCES: “Blue Zones” and “Power 9R” by Dan Buettner;;

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum in the Scranton Times-Tribune every Monday.                                               

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.