Increasing longevity is no longer a mystery. Huge insights can be gained by studying the habits of the world’s longest-lived people.
Where in the world do people live the longest? Though Prople in the U.S. tend to think they own good health and longevity, the truth might surprise you – the small, remote island of Okinawa, Japan is where you’ll find the world’s largest population of healthy older adults. In fact, of the five locales scientists are studying for their longevity secrets, three are islands, one is a peninsula and one is simply a spiritual oasis.
Live Long and Better
Researcher Dan Buettner, who studies these populations for the National Geographic Society, calls these long-lived pockets Blue Zones. The top five Blue Zones may be relatively isolated and scattered around the globe, but here’s what they have in common, according to the New York Times:
- A cultural environment that reinforces healthy lifestyle habits like diet and exercise
- Healthy social relationships and psychological well-being
- People who tend to gardens
- People who have a cooperative spirit
- Public health that is easily accessible
- Seniors are valued as members of their family and the community
Read on to find out more about what these places are doing right.
Where People Live the Longest Around the World
1. Okinawa, Japan
In Okinawa – an archipelago 360 miles off the coast of Japan – you’ll find the world’s highest prevalence of proven centenarians: 740 out of a population of 1.3 million. Okinawan seniors not only have the highest life expectancy in the world, but also the highest health expectancy: they remain vigorous and healthy into old age, suffering relatively few age-related ailments.
Secrets of Longevity: Widespread gardening provides an opportunity for exercise, sunlight and nutritious food, and Okinawans follow an old adage that says “eat until you are 80% full” instead of gorging. They also have a sense of purpose, a positive outlook on life and close social support groups called moais.
2. Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia is an island 120 miles off the coast of Italy where the men – mostly farmers and shepherds – are particularly long-lived. In fact, just one town of 1,700 people, Ovodda, boasts five centenarians.
Secrets of Longevity: Sardinians follow that healthy Mediterranean diet, as well as consume lots of goats’ milk and cheese. They walk a lot, but they also take time for leisure, and maintain a positive attitude and sense of humor about life.
3. Loma Linda, California
60 miles east of Los Angeles, Loma Linda is a community that includes about 9,000 Seventh-Day Adventists – a religious group that is significantly longer-lived than the average American. Adventist culture is focused on healthful habits such as vegetarianism, and warns against alcohol and smoking.
Secrets of Longevity: Besides the healthful habits integral to their belief system, Adventists eat lots of nuts, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly and tend to maintain a healthy weight. They nurture emotional and spiritual health, value their family relationships, and prize volunteering.
4. Nicoya, Costa Rica
The remote Nicoya peninsula has an inland community in which middle-age mortality is surprisingly low: a man at age 60 has about twice the chance of reaching age 90 than a man living in the U.S. They also have the lowest rates of cancer in Costa Rica.
Secrets of Longevity: Their plan de vida or sense of purpose in life encourages a lifestyle that is physically active, with plenty of time outdoors as well as time spent on family and spirituality. They sleep 8 hours. And their diet includes not only nutrient-rich foods like colorful fruit, beans, rice and corn, but also water that’s naturally high in calcium and magnesium.
5. Ikaria, Greece
Ikaria is a Greek island 35 miles off the coast of Turkey. Like Nicoya, they’ve got a lot of nonagenarians: people there are three times more likely to reach 90 than Americans are. According to the Blue Zones website, “Chronic diseases are a rarity in Ikaria. People living in this region have 20% less cancer, half the rate of cardiovascular disease and almost no dementia!”
Secrets of Longevity: Boasting a mineral hot springs, Ikaria has been a health destination for centuries. Its residents stay active through walking, farming and fishing, but they also make sure to take time out to nap and socialize. In addition to their Mediterranean diet, they eat a lot of wild greens and drink an herbal tea that’s full of nutrients. Their community lifestyle also encourages good health habits and regular social engagement.