Take note of the world’s oldest population.. The world’s highest percentage of people living 100 years or more are found on Okinawa Island,Japan. In Okinawa, 28.6 per 100,000 people are over 100 years old, compared with 8.9 for Japan and 3.0 for the USA. Not only are they physically active even in their 90s, they are generally positive-thinking and contented. You can watch a short CNN video on the lifestyle of Okinawans here.
So what’s the secret? This has caused many a gerontologist to study the reasons for their longevity. Many have done so and their findings can be summarised as follows:
- A diet low in fat, salt and sugar– take a look at their typical food pyramid:
- Plenty of Exercise – many are in their 90s and still run, dance or climb trees to pick fruits. Exercise is meant to be enjoyed and this is enhanced by doing it in community groups. This includes mental exercise -keeping one’s brain active.
- No smoking – quite in contrast to the rest of the Japanese.
- Moderate or little alcohol– but plenty of green tea.
- Good stress management -the closely-knit community provides interactive psychological support and faith which promotes a strong feeling of optimism and positive outlook. There is plenty of mental activity and each is inculcated with a feeling of purpose in life.
- Access to good dental & medical healthcare– regular medical check-ups are the norm.
- Adequate nighttime sleep of at least 6 hours.
With the above measures, in Okinawa, the incidence of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s is practically unknown, which is quite amazing.
Based on my observations of elderly patients, one additional feature for longevity which seems to be also a norm is having a good sense of humour. After all, laughter is the best medicine and the positive effects on health is certainly no laughing matter! A study by the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that average blood flow typically increases 22 percent during and after bursts of laughter compared to a decrease in blood flow by 35 percent during mental stress.
Those caught in the rat-race will surely identify that their deleterious lifestyle is the root-cause of ill-health and disease and many can learn a point or two from Okinawa’s elderly..