In an effort to discover how to live longer, healthier lives, in 2004 a team went in search of those who could best provide the answer –– people breaking the 100-year mark with no signs of slowing down.

In an effort to discover how to live longer, healthier lives, in 2004 a team went in search of those who could best provide the answer –– people breaking the 100-year mark with no signs of slowing down.

“What began as a National Geographic expedition to find the longest living cultures evolved into a recipe for living longer that we’re taking across the country,” Blue Zones author Dan Buettner states on the website, bluezones.com.

The Avedis Foundation, which is considering bringing the Blue Zones program to Shawnee, discussed many aspects of the concept during a meeting Tuesday.

The journey revealed a handful of hot spots where many age-defyers thrive: Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, Calif.; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Nicoya, Costa Rica.

Blue Zones speaker Ben Leedle said what the group found was a number of similarities in the way of life for the centenarians.

According to the Danish Twins Study, 80 percent of a person's lifespan is determined by lifestyle choices and environmental factors –– only 20 percent is genetic.

Among the main contributors to a longer, healthier life included having a primarily plant-based (fruits and veggies) diet, a committed social network, regular physical activity, a system of faith and a purpose to fulfill, Leedle said.

The group is now entering specific sites to seed the environment with the host of longevity-based components to boost potential for increased well-being.

The group has seen much promise in areas where they have replicated the formula.

Since 2009, the community in Albert Lea, Minn. –– the group's flagship endeavor –– has shed 12,000 pounds, slashed healthcare costs, and added over three years to their average life expectancy, according to the Blue Zones website.

Several towns in Iowa have joined the Blue Zones team, helping it in its effort to become the healthiest state by 2016, the site reads.

Right now, Oklahoma ranks 48th in overall well-being.

Blue Zones believes it can help.

According to data gathered about Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain and Pottawatomie Counties –– a population of 412,645 –– Leedle offered a diagnostic of the area:

• one in two: Do not exercise

• one in three: Experience physical pain

• one in three: Worry about money

• one in four: Health is not near perfect

• one in six: Have exercise restrictions

• one in seven: Challenged to afford food, health care and/or medicines

• one in eight: Challenged with hope and purpose

The Blue Zones researchers broke it down further –– singling out Pottawatomie County alone. The data results were dismal.

Leedle said the county is driving up the risks for higher costs to address these health issues.

Pottawatomie County rates 45.3 percent in Body Mass Index (BMI), whereas the four counties together show 35.9 percent.

In tobacco use, the county shows 36.7 percent while the four combined counties register at 22.8 percent.

Stress is rated 43.9 percent for Pottawatomie County and the four together show 39.5 percent. Also, high blood pressure is 4.1 percent higher –– at 37.8 percent ––than the group of counties.

“There is an exacerbation here,” Leedle said.

Smoking and obesity are key areas of concern for the area, Leedle said.

“If Blue Zones came here, “ he said, “over 10 years the area could see $44 million in savings in medical costs alone.”

Leedle said if Shawnee chooses to participate in the Blue Zones project, the city can expect a laundry list of positive results:

• a measurable increase in well-being

• lower health care costs

• improved productivity

• alignment for grants, gifts and funding

• less tobacco usage

• more active population

• drop in obesity rates

• boost in economic vitality

During the informational seminar on Tuesday, Avedis Foundation Board Chair Mike Adcock said the board is considering bringing the Blue Zones project to Shawnee. They may vote on the proposal next week.

For more information about the concept, visit bluezones.com.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.