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Eight ways to create your personal 'Blue Zone'

Don't live in a place that resembles a Blue Zone but eager to make some changes? Here are some of the conclusions Dan Buettner, author of "The Blue Zones," came to about the strategies people can take wherever they are. He calls them not a silver bullet but "silver buckshot, a healthy swarm of small things" with big effects.

1) Community: All but five of the 263 centenarians Buettner and his researchers talked to belonged to a faith-based community. Apart from a religious adherence, a sense of purpose matters; consider writing a personal mission statement. Putting family first also matters. Or create a circle of people whose behaviors you'd like to emulate and form a group for walking, talking or other activities.

2) Diet: Some of the foods common in the diets of Blue Zone residents were olive oil, greens, chickpeas, coffee, green tea, nuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, turmeric, salmon, squash and avocados. The average American, Buettner writes in his latest book, "The Blue Zones Solution," eats 200 pounds of meat and drinks 57 gallons of soda a year. Changing that is easier when the eating environment is changed: what's in your kitchen and where, the restaurants you choose, with whom you eat. For many residents of Loma Linda, a Blue Zone, a vegetarian diet is just the norm. Snack on nuts, and eat meat no more than twice a week, Buettner writes.

3) Cook: Make food at home. "In most Blue Zones, eating out is considered a celebratory field trip," Buettner writes. And residents of those places don't eat standing up, in their cars or alone.

4) Drink: Lots of water and perhaps a glass of wine each day.

5) Treats: Put food that's not healthful in an out-of-the-way cupboard. Label it "junk food." If you don't see it, you are less likely to eat it.

6) Mind: Learn a new instrument or a language. Meditate.

7) Sleep: Remove the TV, computer and cellphones from the bedroom, and if you need a clock, turn it so the lights don't shine in your face. Make the room cool and dark. Buettner writes that less than seven hours of sleep a night increases the chances of colds, decreases rates of well-being and adds to the risk of obesity.

8) Move: Make it necessary to get up and move repeatedly. Don't use a TV remote or a riding lawn mower. Do outdoor chores and garden. Get a dog and walk it.

mary.macvean@latimes.com

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