Latest Abstract Update: February 13, 2017


Keynote Address| Blue Zones: Secrets of a Long Life
Dan Buettner, Author, National Geographic Fellow

To find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner and his team study the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. In his talk, he shares the 9 common diet and lifestyle habits – Power 9® – that keep them spry past age 100. What should you be doing to live a longer life? Dan Buettner debunks the most common myths and offers a science-backed blueprint for the average American to live another 12 quality years.


The Making of a Healthy City
Dan Buettner, Author, National Geographic Fellow 

In 2009, Albert Lea, Minnesota, a statistically average American city, completed a one-year community health experiment that raised life expectancy by three years, trimmed a collective 12,000 pounds off waistlines and dropped health care costs of city workers by some 40% – and they’ve continued to sustain the results. Harvard’s Dr. Walter Willett called the results “stunning”. Hear how this and many other typical unhealthy American city reversed the trend, re-shaped their environment to live longer, better, and boosted happiness and got healthier without thinking about it.


Longevity Secrets from IKARIA Study
Christina Chrysohoou, MD, PhD

Ikaria Island (North-East Aegean, Greece) has been recognized as one of the places with the highest life expectancy around the world (the Blues Zones). From June to October of 2009, 330 men and 343 women, 65-to-100 years, were enrolled; in June-July 2013, were re-evaluated. Additionally 660 inhabitants aged 40-65 years old were also evaluated. Those elderly individuals had lower prevalence of smoking, higher prevalence of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidaemia, higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome compared with the middle-aged. According to other lifestyle habits elderly consume more often fish, vegetables, legumes and tea, and less often red meat, alcohol, coffee and pasta, showing a higher adherence to the Mediterranean type of diet and noon siesta and lower rates of depression compared to the middle-aged. Age-standardized gender-specific all-cause mortality rate was 790 deaths per 10,000 inhabitants; causes of death were: CVD (36%), cancer (21%), infection (10%), respiratory (2%) and other (31%). CVD incidence was 520 cases per 10,000 men inhabitants and 320 cases per 10,000 women Age, male gender, heart rate, urea levels, left atrial maximum volume, left ventricular hypertrophy, thyroid stimulating hormone and moderate-to-severe depression, were positively associated with mortality; whereas, left ventricular ejection fraction was inversely associated with CVD. Coffee consumption, tea, fruit intake, and olive oil were also inversely associated with CVD. Based on the demographic information from the National Statistical Service of Greece significant differences were observed in the rate of persons aged 90+, as well as in the survival between the aforementioned areas. In particular, the percent of people 85+ years old was 3.02% in census 1991 and 3.24% in 2001, while the survival rates of the high environmental radioactivity areas, between 1971-2011, were almost 88% higher for men and 4% higher for women, as compared with low radioactivity area. Additionally, higher total antioxidant capacity level in the two moderate to high radioactivity areas as compared with low radioactivity area, was observed. Genetic evaluation of tumor necrosis factor, angiotensin-converting enzyme polymorphisms and FOXO-3 seem to illustrate various interactions with mental health status, arterial stiffness and inflammatory process that interfere with cardiovascular disease progression in this population.


Sociocultural Connectedness: Religious Beliefs, Attitudes and Health within the Adventist Blue Zone
Jerry Lee, PhD

The Biopsychosocial Religion and Health Study—AKA the Adventist Religion and Health Study—is based on a subsample approximately 10,000 individuals within the larger 97,000 person North American Adventist Health Study 2 (the parent study).  Within that 10,000, a sample of about 500 residing within driving distance of Loma Linda University or one site in Los Angeles County, California provided data on cognitive functioning, urinary and blood biomarkers, biometrics, and physical performance.  In 2006-7 and 2010-11 participants completed questionnaires assessing stressors, religious beliefs, attitudes, and practices, psychosocial and physical mediators, quality of life and health.  The parent study has collected information about hospitalization and mortality.

Among other findings: (a) Compared to national norms, Adventists score higher on scales measuring both physical and mental health quality of life. For mental health, the gap is larger in the oldest groups. (b) Those divorced in the last five years are more depressed than those not divorced but the more they use positive religious coping the less the difference.  (c) Those who made the Sabbath less like another day of the week had better mental and physical health quality of life, effects partially mediated by positive religious coping, religious support, diet and exercise. (d) Religious engagement counteracted the effects of a risky, abusive family on negative emotionality and in turn on physical health. (e) Church activity was associated with lower mortality while religious engagement was indirectly associated with reduced mortality through reduced negative emotionality and increased healthy diet.  (f) Spiritual intimacy was associated with increased relational intimacy and well-being provided it increased a sense of meaning.  Otherwise, it was associated with reduced relational intimacy and well-being.  Religious beliefs and practices seem to play an important role in improved quality of life and reduced mortality.


Tim Mckinney, CEO

The community of Bithlo, FL resembles parts of Appalachia. Poverty is the norm for many Bithlo residents – and has been for over 80 years. Besides generational poverty, Bithlo has grave environmental issues including tainted drinking water, 16 junk yards and illegal landfills. Other challenges include substandard housing, high illiteracy rates, lack of health care access and myriad social service needs.

United Global Outreach (UGO) is using the principles of Public Health 3.0. in the “Bithlo Transformation Effort” and building a grassroots model to solve poverty in our most challenged communities. The model is focused on leveraging existing assets and building relationships, not just programs. UGO has enlisted over 70 community, government, education, health and faith partners to work simultaneously on community-defined determinants of health and other areas of focus: education, transportation, housing, economic opportunity, health care access, environment, basic needs, sense of community, and access to arts and athletics. This place-based, community-driven, population health model is now being replicated in other communities.


Childhood Experiences and Resilient Centenarians & Seniors:  Implications of the North American Blue Zone Region for Improving the Health of our Nation’s Children​
Rhonda Spencer-Hwang, DrPH, MPH

With the growing epidemic of chronic diseases, innovative and effective prevention and management strategies are critically needed.  Scientific evidence has linked childhood exposures and health practices with development of chronic diseases later in life.  Insight into disease prevention may come from communities with significant increase in life expectancy.  The Loma Linda, CA Adventist community has been identified as a longevity hotspot, a blue zone region, where people live significantly longer and with less chronic disease.  The Loma Linda Blue Zone Region (LLBZR) community may hold insight into chronic disease prevention and management strategies critically needed to improve the health of our nation.  The purpose of this study was to obtain in-depth information from parents and grandparents, including centenarians, about their childhood experiences both positive and negative as they relate to health promotion.  Secondly, to develop framework based on LLBZR findings for prevention and management of chronic disease.  A qualitative study was conducted with emerging themes from key informant interviews and focus group discussions with LLBZR community (n=33 members).  Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed; analyses were conducted using inductive methods of coding and theming.  Eight childhood health themes emerged among the centenarian and seniors which included: “kinetic life”, “resting reset”, “simple foods”, “nature engagement,” “family and friends camaraderie”, “spiritual practices”, “hopeful intrinsic drive”, and “helping hand”,  all together centered around a core theme of “whole health whole life”.  Additionally, centenarians and seniors reported living through tremendous adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).  The well-being of young children is emerging as a promising concentration for reducing the chronic disease epidemic and promoting a culture of health for our nation.  The results of our study have identified healthy lifestyle principles practiced by a community known for its member’s resilience.  Many of the identified key health themes have anti-inflammatory components and thus have potential implications for prevention/management of chronic diseases and mitigation of adverse impact of ACEs.  Building on the foundation of our study findings, innovate work for health promotion and disease prevention is well underway for children and their families.


Latest Research Findings: Okinawa Blue Zone, Okinawa Centenarian Study
Makoto Suzuki, MD, PhD

We have performed medical and sociological research on Okinawan Centenarians regularly since 1976. They are summarized into four items: diet culture, physical activities, self-help manners and mutual help customs. Health longevity is the main object of our research, however living a respectful, contributive life and achieving resilient longevity is the most meaningful goal of life for human citizens. It is considered to be a product from not only the healthy diet constitution but also the life pattern of maintaining Ikigai throughout a lifetime. Ikigai is produced by Kizuna, tight connection between family and friends in their society and great mindfulness of living a purposeful life. I will introduce the typical customs of the “moai” and “kajimaya” in Okinawa. There are many nutritional studies and reports on healthy foods and diets, but not so many studies on longevity landscapes up to the present. Landscapes include not only national geographical power, but also Feng Shui, which is constituted by regional cultural factors. In addition, resilient longevity has overcome exposure of heavy hardships such as severe starvation, poverty, and involvement in cruel wars. Ancient humankind has overcome overwhelming hardships and has reached an advanced and modern world today. It is a remarkably interesting story that the evolution of humankind has been accomplished by creating a pathway for epigenetic gene. We hope all people accomplish a peaceful and resilient longevity in the world and also recognize the essence of Blue Zone life.


Biology and Genetics of Okinawan Longevity
Bradley Willcox, MD, MSc

Okinawa was an independent country until 1872 when it was annexed and became the westernmost prefecture (state) of Japan. The Okinawans have been Japan’s longest-lived people since records have been kept. By several measures, Okinawans are also the world's longest-lived people. The exact mechanisms are debated but the healthy traditional lifestyle and culture are thought to be important factors. A plant based diet that is low in calories and high in geroprotective phytonutrients, regular physical activity, supportive psychological and social customs are prominent traditional factors. This health-promoting environment is associated with geroprotective biological factors such as healthy cholesterol profiles, low levels of inflammation, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, lower blood pressure and higher lean body mass. These factors are linked to high physical and cognitive function at older ages. Genetics may also be important. The Okinawans’ geographic isolation has led to limited gene inflow resulting in less genetic variability in Okinawans than other Japanese. Okinawans have also traditionally married within their own villages. These factors can favor clustering of genetic variants, leading to extreme phenotypes, such as longevity. To date, the relative genetic and environmental contributions to the healthy aging and longevity phenomenon are still under investigation. This presentation will explore the biological and genetic mechanisms that are associated with Okinawan lifespan and health span.