MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The author of the best-selling “Blue Zones” books has a message for WVU students Thursday night: your 20s will play an important role in determining how long you live.

“Here in America, you sort of peak out at age 30,” Dan Buettner said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. “In Sardinia, the oldest people are the most celebrated. So, they stay engaged. They stay physically active. Their minds stay sharp, and they have a feeling of usefulness.”

Buettner has studied a number of “Blue Zones” throughout the world — areas where there appears to be a significant correlation between the lifestyle of the people who live there and how much longer they live than the average adult.

“These populations tend to harness the wisdom of older people — not send it down to Arizona or Florida to golf,” Buettner said.

A sense of purpose throughout the entirety of one’s life, not just early in life, is key, according to Buettner.

“What I talk about is how to get that extra 20 years and assure they are good years and not disabled or suffering from heart disease, cancer, or diabetes,” Buettner said.

He said about 20 percent of longevity is about a person’s genes, but the other 80 percent is all about lifestyle.

“If you’re eating about a cup of beans a day, it’s probably adding four years to your life expectancy,” Buettner said. “And if you’re eating a handful of nuts per day, it’s probably adding two years to your life expectancy.”

He also said healthier populations focus on greens and whole grains in addition to nuts and beans, while meat-based protein takes a backseat.

“We probably eat more meat than we should be eating if living long is your priority,” Buettner said.

He hopes that his speech will provide a sense of motivation to attack the structure of health problems that constantly plague West Virginia.

“West Virginia has enormous opportunity to seize on that and have health ensure, rather than to continue to spiral down like we’re doing.”

Buettner will speak at 7:30 Thursday evening in the Mountainlair Ballroom.

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