Want to live to 110? The following lessons emphasize making changes to your environment that will influence your habits. The secret to living longer involves creating the right surroundings and following specific lifestyle habits shared by the world’s longest-lived people.
We will then take some lessons from countries with the longest-lived people in the world.
Move Naturally – Gain 4 Years
The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They live in places where they can walk to the store, to their friend’s house or places of worship, their houses have stairs, they have gardens in their yards.
Consider making things a little inconvenient. Make that extra trip up or down the stairs instead of loading things at the top or bottom to take up later, walk to your airport gate instead of taking the moving walkway, park far from the entrance, walk a dog, do your own yard and house work, get rid of some the time-saving electronics and power equipment that have “simplified” your life.
Right Outlook – Gain 4 Years
2. Purpose Driven Life
Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. The Okinawans call it “ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Do an internal inventory. Be able to articulate your values, passions, gifts and talents. What are the things you like to do and the things you don’t? Then incorporate ways to put your skills into action.
3. Manage Stress
Even people in the longest-lived cultures experience stress. Stress leading to chronic inflammation is associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour. Find a stress shedding strategy that works for you and make it routine.
Eat Wisely – Gain 8 Years
4. 80% Rule
Marketers tell us we can eat our way to health. America has eaten its way well beyond health. Our strategy focuses on taking things out — instead of putting more things in — our diet. “Hara hachi bu” – the Okianawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomach is 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. Serve food at the table, store leftovers, then sit down to enjoy the meal. Replace your big dishes with 10” plates. Remove TV’s from the kitchen. People in the longest-lived cultures eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.
5. Plant Slant
Go ahead and eat meat if you want. But try to only eat the leanest, finest, organic, grass-fed meat you can afford. If you can’t eat this type of meat, skip it. Conventionally raised meats with hormones, antibiotics, GMO feed, and full of omega 6 fats, cause inflammation and contribute to all the diseases of western affluence. Organic, grass-fed meats are healthful, rich in omega-3 fats. Try to limit it to a portion the size of a deck of cards per meal. The longest-lived people eat mainly fish. Eat only wild fish and seafood. Farm-raised fish have the same problems as conventional factory farmed meats. Beans, including fava, black, and lentils are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Try to eat two pounds of vegetables a day. Snacking on nuts–about a handful a day– is associated with an extra 2-3 years of life expectancy.
6. Wine @ 5
Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1 drink per day, with friends and/or with food. Any more negates the health benefits of one drink. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
Connect – Gain 4 Years
Most centenarians belong to a faith-based community. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or some other religion that meets as a community. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy. Not raised in an organized religion? You can attend a self-realization temple or join a meditation or yoga class. Yoga is quite spiritual.
8. Loved Ones First
Successful centenarians in the long-lived cultures put their families first. This means keeping your aging parents and grandparents near by or in your home. This lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too. Work on being in a positive, committed relationship (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in your children with time and love. They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes.
9. Right Tribe
The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that support healthy behaviors. Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. Research from the US Framingham Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness is contagious. Assessing who you hang out with, and then proactively surrounding yourself with the right friends, will do more to add years to your life than just about anything else.
The people in the following countries live well into their nineties and often break the hundred year mark. Their existence is healthy but the underlying reasons are often cultural. In fact, it’s not just that these individuals take care of themselves; it’s a countrywide phenomenon that’s based on lifestyle choices. Why are certain countries home to the world’s happiest, healthiest people on Earth? What do they eat What daily habits are different from other societies? I set out to answer these questions and along the way I found some striking similarities between these fit nations, spread far and wide across the globe.
Due to a smaller population, Iceland is one of the least polluted countries in the world. But clean air isn’t the only reason Icelanders are so healthy; they also like to hit the gym. Due to chilly weather much of the year, Icelanders workout to beat the winter blues. The country enjoys one of the highest life expectancies (72 for men and 74 for women). It also has one of the lowest infant mortality rates at 2 deaths per 1,000 babies. Forbes Magazine ranked it the healthiest country in the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) calculated the countries where people live to full health the longest and Japan came out on top with 74.5 years. Much of this is due to diet. They are the largest consumers of fish, seaweed, and green tea in the world. When they are about 80 percent full, they stop and wait for about 10 minutes, then decide whether to keep going. And most times, they are full so they don’t need to keep eating more.
Government policies promote a healthy way of life including positive work/life balance. The population also loves to play outside with their stunning landscape full of rolling hills, mountains, and glacial lakes. Additionally, because of their location they eat a diet that’s high in fish and omega fatty acids. Their cooking methods also reflect that of a healthy population. Rather than using an abundance of oil, they poach, ferment, smoke, and dry their foods.
Okinawa is a Prefecture or sub national jurisdiction of Japan. However, it’s worth mentioning it separately because it’s widely believed to have the healthiest people on Earth. According to the Okinawa Centenarian Study, centenarian ratios may be the world’s highest at approximately 50 per 100,000 people. The country is also home to many super centenarians, people who reach the age of 110 years old. Okinawans attribute their not only long, but healthy, happy lives to eating tons of local fruits and vegetables, as well as large quantities seaweed. Their lives also include rigorous daily activity and relatively low stress.
5. New Zealand
Similar to Iceland, a lower population and lack of pollution make New Zealand a great place to call home. New Zealanders love outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and fishing. All and all it’s just an easier place to embrace a fit lifestyle. No matter where you live you’re not but a 90-minute drive from the ocean.
“Plus there’s an abundance of healthy whole foods. We eat fresh seafood (we often catch it ourselves) and local organic fruits and vegetables. Everyone grows something here and neighbors all put out bags for purchase by anyone. We get fresh lettuce from the kids’ school, avocados from our tree, and kiwis, apples and plums from our neighbors,” says Jill Chalmers, who moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband.
Sardinia is an autonomous region of Italy that’s home to a large population of centenarians. There’s a real sense of community in Sardinia. People are close-knit and the elderly often live with their families. The men are often shepherds, walking about 5 miles per day and the diet consists of “whole grain flatbread, fava beans, tomatoes, greens, garlic, various fruits, olive oil and pecorino cheese from grass-fed sheep (high in Omega 3).”
According to Forbes Magazine, Finland was plagued with one of the highest death rates from heart disease just 30 years ago. As a result, the nation has worked vigorously to encourage a healthy lifestyle among its people. Smoking has been reduced significantly and fruit and vegetable intake has more than doubled. As a nation, the Fins committed to change and turned their health around. So can you.