In our age and youth conscious society, where people are constantly striving to look, feel and project the appearance of being younger than they are, we frequently hear phrases like “40 is the new 30” or “60 is the new 50”.
But in a time where people are now regularly living to the age of 100 and beyond, phrases like “110 is the new 100” are now gaining popularity. In fact, there are people in the world who are living well past 110 and researchers are striving to determine what it is that contributes to their longevity. From Japan and China to Sardinia and Costa Rica, there is abundant evidence that the health and lifestyle habits of certain groups of people in the world contribute to their long life.
By learning from these people, we all can greatly enhance our chances of living a long and healthy life – even to 110 and beyond.
Living Longer, Living Better
The Japanese island of Okinawa in the East China Sea may be the closest thing we have on Earth to a place where time stands still. On average, the Japanese live longer than anyone else in the world and the people of Okinawa live longer than all other Japanese.
For every 100,000 Okinawans, there are 35 centenarians – people who have attained the age of 100 years or more. The average life expectancy there is nearly 82 years, the longest in the world. Besides the fact that they live longer, they also live far better than people from many other cultures. Even after the age of 100, many Okinawans still function extremely well practicing martial arts, riding bicycles and even having sex. They have a lower rate of diseases common to the elderly including macular degeneration, dementia and arthritis. Over the last several years, the dietary and lifestyle components of the people of Okinawa have been studied closely in order to educate and help people all over the world.
One of the most important factors that contribute the longevity of Okinawans is their healthy diet. Their meals consist of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, and seafood. It is light on meat, eggs and dairy, unlike much of the Western world. Okinawans especially like tofu, mixing it with seafood and benefiting from cancer and heart disease fighting flavenoids. If the people of a country like America could alter their diet to more closely resemble that of those in Okinawa, there would be far less incidences of many diseases that are caused by improper eating.
As in Okinawa, the healthy habits of other Asian cultures offers insight into what the contributing factors of longevity are.
Japan isn’t the only place in the world known for citizens who live to extremely old ages. In places like the Ningxia province of China, diet and lifestyle also contribute to longevity and anti-aging.
Like in Japan, the residents of the Ningxia province eat a mineral-rich diet that is chock full of anti-oxidants. People who are living to 120 years of age commonly eat foods such as almonds, apricots and wolf-berries. Wolf-berries have over 100 times the anti-oxidant power of carrots. Minerals such as potassium and magnesium, and access to glacial water are no doubt contributing factors as well. It is not uncommon for travelers to China to come into contact with Buddhist and Taoist monks and yogis who appear far younger in age than they actually are. Though there is often no official verification in rural parts of China, like Ningxia, it has been said that people have lived to the age of 140 and well beyond that. There are even reports that women in their 80’s have had babies.
While diet is one of the key factors to enjoying a long and healthy life, there are other lifestyle choices one can make that will further help in reaching the goal of old age.
Sense of Purpose
There’s a lot to be said for the way in which we live our lives. Do we experience nature? Do we allow our bodies to move and breathe? Do we have fun and laugh? Do we surround ourselves with people of quality?
In Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, many male inhabitants walk for many miles a day, working in pastures and easily allowing stress to melt away. They do this their whole lives, even past the age of 100. In many parts of the world including Costa Rica, strong social connections give women a sense of belonging that nourishes their inner spirit. Some of the great lessons learned from looking at those who have attained old age throughout the world is that finding physical activities and doing them with people whose company you enjoy is extremely beneficial to health and longevity. Getting an adequate amount of sleep, – seven to nine hours a night, helps to recharge the brain and keep the immune system functioning well. Spending time in the sun elevates your vitamin D and helps protect against numerous chronic diseases.
Possibly more important than any other reason is to have a purpose in life. Those with a strong sense of purpose and a feeling of belonging greatly improve their chances of sticking around longer.
We all know that nobody lives forever, but that does not stop doctors, scientists and all of us seeking the proverbial fountain of youth from trying.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once wrote, “A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.” He knew that observation and implementation of the best of human habits would benefit the health and well being of all of us.
Today, thanks to a better understanding of what it takes to keep our bodies and minds healthy, there is no reason all of us can’t strive to live to become centenarians. You can personally ask many who are living today and they will tell you that it’s definitely worth it.