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Want to live to 100? "Blue Zones" expert shares longevity lessons in new Netflix series

Bestselling author on lessons for living longer
Bestselling author Dan Buettner on lessons for living longer 02:29

"Blue Zones" — parts of the world where people tend to live the longest — are coming to life in a new series focused on tapping into their lessons on longevity.

In the four-part series "Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones" (streaming now on Netflix) Dan Buettner, the explorer and best-selling author who has studied Blue Zones for 20-plus years, takes viewers on a journey to regions with the highest number of centenarians, or people who live to 100: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.

By stepping inside their homes and through interviews with Buettner, viewers learn about the foods that fuel this impressive population and other aspects of the lifestyles they lead on a daily basis that positively impact their health. 

The four principles that span each zone? Eating wisely, moving naturally, connecting with others and having a purpose or outlook.

"The essence of Blue Zones is people live a long time not because of the things we think — they're not on diets, they're not on exercise programs, they don't take supplements," Buettner told CBS News. "They don't pursue health, which is a big disconnect in America, because we think health is something that needs to be pursued."

Instead, in Blue Zones, health ensues from their overall lifestyle, he says.

"It ensues by setting up your surroundings the right way, and in Blue Zones, those surrounding are naturally set up," he says, adding that these ideas are transferable no matter your age. 

"Starting at any age will make you live longer," he says. "At age 60, you could potentially add six extra years. And at age 20, if you're a male, you could potentially add 13 extra years if you live in a Blue Zone lifestyle as opposed to a standard American lifestyle."

In his latest book, "The Blue Zones: Secrets for Living Longer," Buettner digs even deeper into how people can set up their surroundings to unconsciously encourage healthier choices, like residents of the Blue Zones.

"We make about 220 food decisions a day. Only about 10% of them, 22 or so, are conscious, the other almost 200 are unconscious," Buettner explains. "So the Blue Zone approach is not trying to make you muster discipline or presence of mind to govern those 20 decisions — our approach is to help you set up your kitchen and your social life so those 200 unconscious decisions... are slightly better."

In a "Person to Person" interview with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell earlier this year, Buettner shared plant-based recipe tips for longer living. But even those already familiar with his work will learn something from his latest projects.

There are about a dozen new insights to take away from the series, Buettner says, including a location he describes as a "Blue Zone 2.0" — Singapore.

"(Singapore) demonstrates that we don't have to be as sick and unhealthy as we are as a nation," he says. "There are other economically developed young countries that are vastly diverse, culturally speaking, that achieve much better health outcomes."

And Buettner says he isn't finished learning, teasing three new locations he's studying and hopes to share soon.

"I'm very interested in healthy life expectancy now. Blue Zones was about living a long time, and there are new metrics out that measure years of life lived at full health, and America does a pretty crappy job," he says. He believes these new locations should provide insight on "not just making it to 95 or 100, but making the journey an absolute blast and feeling good the whole way."

Watch Norah O'Donnell's full interview with Dan Buettner in the video below:

Person to Person: Norah O'Donnell interviews Dan Buettner 21:49
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