The World Health Organization recently released figures on life expectancy around the globe. Japan came in at number one with a life expectancy of 83 years. Australia, Iceland and Italy had a life expectancy of 82 years. The US was 78 years– low among industrialized nations.
Other Top countries included France, Israel, Spain, Monaco, New Zealand, and Sweden. The lowest countries, where you might only make it into your forties, were Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and many other African Countries, often due to war, failing health care systems and social unrest.
We should expect most developed countries to live longer, but what are some of the other reasons for longevity? France comes fairly high up– in particular the south of France. In fact, most of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, due to a good diet rich in fresh produce, ranked high. The French are well known to have a good relationship with food, making home cooked meals an important part of the day.
A group of scientists have coined the term “blue zones” for places in the world where people live the longest. These are Sardinia, Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda in California.
In Okinawa the diet is rich in tofu and soya, with a vast variety of antioxidant rich vegetables. Also most importantly there is a cultural practice called Hara Hachi, which preaches eating until you are 80% full. In fact a typical person only consumes 1200k calories a day.
Sardinians are well known to be active, walking many miles, tending to cattle and cutting wood. Key factors in the Sardinians long life expectancy are making activity part of daily life, and a plant based diet with antioxidant rich wine helps too.
Scientists will continue to ponder why certain people live longer in different regions of the globe. The key applications are to eat a healthy diet, be active, have a good support network and most importantly practice Hara Hachi. Or move to Japan!