One of the longest living people in the world is the Japanese. Numbers vary each year and many factors can make statistics quite small, but the United Nations had Japan at number one in life expectancy at birth at the ripe old age of 82.6 for its overall population in the years 2005-2010. The CIA World Factbook ranked Japan at number three (after Macau and Andorra) at a slightly lower number of 82.12 in 2009. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the islands of Okinawa in Japan boasts 50 centenarians per 100,000 people – possibly the highest number in the world. Not only do the Okinawans enjoy a long life, they also are among the healthiest people in the world with remarkably low rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Studies on the longevity of the Okinawans have revealed a few factors that contribute to such a long and healthy life.
1. A positive outlook towards life – Research has shown that positive thinking adds years to your life. When you actually look forward to aging and living life to the fullest, you tend to have less stress and worries. Okinawans are cheerful, energetic people who maintain an active social life way beyond 70 or 80 years of age.
2. Exercise – It is not a rare sight in Japan to see an elderly out manually working in their farms, fields or gardens. Japanese elderly, Okinawans included, tend to keep themselves busy and stay in good shape with various physical activities such as gateball (a croquet-like game enjoyed by the elderly in Japan), traditional Japanese dances, and martial arts.
3. Genetics – This is the one factor that there is not much one can do anything about. However, the fact remains that if you come from a family with long lives, chances are you yourself will have a long life.
4. Diet – Perhaps the most important reason for longevity in Okinawa is their diet. Okinawans eat a lot of fish, fresh vegetables, soy and legumes, and seaweed. Fish is rich in omega-3 and helps reduce cholesterol, which can cause cardiovascular diseases. Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are excellent sources of vitamins and folate that have cancer-fighting properties. Soy products are low-caloric food that is rich in calcium, a food source that contributes to low rates of osteoporosis and natural menopause with fewer complications such as hot flashes among women.
Most of the things listed above can easily be emulated by anyone who wants to live a long, healthy life. Some lifestyle changes will have to be made, but it is absolutely doable. A long, healthy life awaits.
Featured Image: National Geographic