Have you ever wondered why there are places in the world where life expectancy and general health is significantly higher than anywhere else in the world?  This really interests me so I decided to do a bit of research.  The following places particularly stood out as having some of the highest rates of longevity in the world.  What are they doing that is so different to us?

 

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan

It is here that the indigenous people of the Ryuku Islands in Japan hold the world record for not only longevity but also the number of centenaries.   There are people in their 100’s not even contemplating retirement and 97 per cent remain in optimal health.  In Okinawa, risk of cardio-vascular illness is reduced by 80 per cent and incidences of other conditions usually associated with the elderly such as osteoporosis, stroke, arthritis, depression and dementia are extremely rare.  How can this be?  Genetics and environment must play a part but it has been proven that when Okinawans stray towards a more Western-style diet, they don’t live as long or stay as healthy. The proof is in the pudding, as they say!

A low fat, low GI, mostly plant-based diet has been proven to work well for the people of Okinawa

 The following bullet points show the main dietary components and principles:

  • 7 servings of local fruits and vegetables a day – emphasis on dark green and yellow veg
  • 7 servings of whole grains a day – noodles, bread, and rice (mostly wholegrain)
  • 2 servings of soy products a day – tofu, soy beans,
  • Fish 3 times a week – omega-3 rich, locally caught
  • Low intake of dairy, meat and poultry (less than 3% of the diet)
  • Seaweed
  • Plenty of water and green tea
  • No alcohol or sugary food
  • Eat slowly and stop eating when 80% full – no over-indulgence
  • Eat with your friend and neighbours!
Okinawan Diet

               Food for the soul!

I guess that some of this could be easy to replicate, I could certainly drink more green tea and eat more fish!  That’s a start, right?

Other important more general factors central to Okinawa’s way of life:

  • Hobbies and sense of purpose -martial arts, walking, gardening, tai chi and traditional dance are daily rituals.  Karate actually originates from Okinawa!
  • Helping each other – strong sense of community.
  • Early nights with lots of naps during the day
  • Keeping family and friends close by
  • Regular low intensity exercise incorporated into daily routine
  • Spirituality, religion and faith
  • Ability to deal with stress and let things go
  • Slow pace of life!
Okinawan Locals

    Okinawan Locals

The Okinawa way isn’t a magic diet, potion or exercise plan – it’s a lifestyle. There’s nothing complicated about it. The people of Okinawa enjoy simple lives.

 

Idylic Campodimele

    Idyllic Campodimele

Campodimele, Italy

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has nicknamed Campodimele “The Village of Eternity”.  People here have the lowest blood pressure in Italy and cholesterol levels to rival a new born baby.  This must be due to a combination of factors.

    • All food is nutritionally rich, local, organic, fresh and seasonal. One of the healthiest diets in the world “Hyper-Mediteranean”.
    • Traditionally an area of peasant farmers most families grow and nurture their own vegetables.
    • Lots of omega-3 oils from locally caught, fresh fish.
    • Locals rise at dawn, go to bed just after dusk and take lots of naps during the day.
    • Friends and family live in close proximity and their lives intertwine.  There is an open-house philosophy and it is common to find 3 generations of the same family living together or side by side.
    • Harvests are celebrated and nature’s cycle imposes a rhythm/structure to the day, season, and year.

      Nutritionally rich, local food

      Nutritionally rich, local food

 
Loma Linda, California
Loma Linda is a city in San Bernardino County, California located in a valley downwind of Los Angeles.  The amazing thing about Loma Linda is that the people here live longer and suffer less disease than people in other parts of California, the United States and the rest of the world.

Loma Linda

The majority of people in Loma Linda are Seventh Day Adventists, a religion whose members live between 5 and 10 years longer than fellow citizens. The Adventist doctrine is that “the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that maintaining a clear head and good physical health are necessary in order to stay connected to God”.

Long life is a matter of faith.

Adventists don’t drink or smoke and many stick to a vegetarian diet as advised by the church.  However even those who don’t stick to these recommendations live longer lives, so it looks like faith plays more of a part in longevity than maybe originally thought.

Adventists take regular exercise, observe the Sabbath on Saturdays and demonstrate a strong faith.  A sense of “meaningfulness” is achieved through doing good deeds for each other, studying the Bible and attending church on a regular basis as part of the community.

Whatever they are doing they are doing it right as Loma Linda is the only place in the world where longevity is continuing to rise.

A Church in Loma Linda, California

A Church in Loma Linda, California

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About The Author

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I've worked as an Occupational Therapist for many years dealing with physical and mental health patients, both in hospitals and the community. Living a healthy, well balanced life with a good diet, regular exercise and a taking a positive outlook are crucial to becoming a very well being indeed - sometimes easier said than done!

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