The secrets to a long and happy life can be found in the way a community chooses to eat, move, and play, according to a study undertaken by National Geographic that has spawned a healthy choice initiative in Oregon and other states.

The nine common strength areas of cities with the oldest active inhabitants on the planet will be shared Thursday by Aaron Patnode, executive director of the Blue Zones Project in Oregon.

Patnode will meet from noon to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 11 with interested community members, faith-based organizations, businesses, government leaders, school officials and others wanting more information about the new challenge.

His presentation takes place in the third floor auditorium of Building 2 on the Columbia Gorge Community College campus.

The Blue Zones Project is named for a book by Dan Buettner, who teamed up with demographers from National Geographic to find pockets of people around the world who were living to be 100 or more. The five places that met this criteria included: Mountainous highlands of inner Sardinia with the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians: the Aegean island of Ikaria, which has one of the lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia; Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, also with low middle-age mortality and a long life expectancy for males; Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, Calif., who lived 10 years longer than their North American counterparts; and, Okinawa, Japan, where females over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.

Amy Krol, outreach coordinator for the Fit in Wasco coalition, said Patnode will talk about what The Dalles and Wasco County can achieve with formation of a strong support network.

Blue Zones advocates for changes at the local, regional and state levels that encompass environmental factors that influence rates of chronic disease, smoking and obesity.

“It’s a national project where people learn to support each other for an overall benefit,” said Krol.

For example, she said more than 1,000 residents of Klamath Falls have taken a “well-being pledge” to make healthier choices and have formed walking groups.

The commitment to become a Blue Zone isn’t just about changing diets— less meat and more vegetables — it is also about learning to manage stress, enjoy relaxation time, find a place in a church or outreach group, spend quality time with family and join a “tribe,” or social circle that has your back during tough times.

“Wine at 5 is one of the strength areas and that’s pretty cool,” said Krol.

The research done by Buettner found that people who lived to be more than 100 ate mindfully – full enough but not stuffed – and found ways to naturally incorporate physical activity into their lives.

Their outlook was positive because they had a strong sense of purpose that gave them passion for life.

In addition to the individual benefits of being a Blue Zone, Krol said businesses benefit because lower stress levels among workers mean fewer accidents and less health problems.

Fit in Wasco formed in late 2014 to combat the county’s “epidemic” of overweight and obese children.

According to local health department data, 38 percent of school-aged children in the area are overweight or obese, compared to 24 percent stateside.Dr. Mimi McDonell of the North Central Public Health District has linked obesity rates with high poverty.

According to state statistics, Wasco County has higher poverty rates than the state and national averages.

Fit in Wasco has committed to taking action to create change that improves the quality of life for residents and, ultimately, reduces the overall cost of health care.

Visit the Fit in Wasco Facebook page to learn more about the local movement for resident health.

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