McFarland Clinic

Ames Named Finalist in Blue Zones Project

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February 10, 2012

The Ames Blue Zones Project Advisory Board received confirmation today that Ames has been selected as a finalist for a Blue Zones demonstration community. 

Officials from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways, sponsors of the Blue Zones Project in Iowa, contacted members of the community coalition on Friday to announce Ames as one of 11 finalists.  The Ames community will now advance to participate in a community site visit with Blue Zones Project representatives on February 27.   
“We are honored to have Ames selected as a finalist, and we believe the people of Ames are interested in making the kind of long-lasting environmental changes and positive health decisions that make a difference,” said Elaine Hieber, Advisory Board Co-Chair.
The Blue Zones Project is a collaboration between Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways to help make Iowa the first in the nation for well-being as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. As part of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, Blue Zones demonstration communities will work to implement environmental and social initiatives identified from global research to increase the lifespan, health, and well-being of residents. Also, these cities would operate as models for other communities to follow.
Citizen support continues to be a key component for a community being selected as an official demonstration site. A total of 10% of the Ames population has pledged interest to date. It is important that at least 25% of the community residents pledge support. To support Ames as a finalist or for more information, residents should pledge citizen support at or text by typing BZP to the number 772937.
In January, the Ames community submitted an application to become a Blue Zones Project demonstration site. The application considers many aspects of the city including its vision, business environment, collaboration between organizations, and ability to engage volunteers.
After site visits, the Blue Zones Project will name communities to be official demonstration sites. The Blue Zones Project will continue to select communities in multiple phases over the next five years.
Ames Named as Finalist
Blue Zones Project communities selected will be provided substantial resources in the form of people, processes, tools and programs to help guide the community.  Local staff directing the project will work in the community for 18 to 36 months depending on the complexity of the community and the work to be done.
Researchers found that people who live in Blue Zones share nine common lifestyle behaviors that have a direct impact on their increased well-being and longevity. These principles called Power 9 Principles are as follows:
  • Move Naturally: We get more physical activity naturally if we live in walkable communities, de-convenience our homes, and grow gardens.
  • Know Your Purpose: People who know why they wake up in the morning live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.
  • Down Shift: To reverse inflammation related to every major age-related disease, find time each day to meditate, nap, pray or enjoy a happy hour.
  • 80% Rule: It takes your stomach 20 minutes to tell your brain it is full, causing most people to accidentally overeat; so stop eating when you feel 80% full.
  • Plant Slant: Eat mostly a plant-based diet that is heavy on beans, nuts, and green plants. This is consistent with the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations to make fruits, vegetables and grains the majority of your intake.
  • Wine at 5: If you have a healthy relationship to alcohol, one to two glasses of wine daily could help add years to your life, especially when consumed with a healthy diet.
  • Family First: Living in a thriving family is worth half a dozen extra years of life expectancy. Invest time in your kids, nurture a monogamous relationship, and keep your aging parents nearby.
  • Belong: Recommit, reconnect, or explore a new faith-based community. No matter which faith, studies found that people who show up to their faith community four times a month live an extra 4-14 years.
  • Right Tribe: Your friends have a long-term impact on your well-being. Expanding your social circle to include health-minded, supportive people might be the most powerful thin you can do to add years to your life. 
Fifteen local leaders have been named to the advisory board spearheading the Ames community’s application to become a Blue Zones Project demonstration site. Called the Blue Zones Power Nine Advisory Board, this group is charged with overseeing the community’s application, site visit, and community initiatives.

Learn more about the Blue Zones Project and the other communities that were chosen with Ames to be finalists in this project.


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