How to live a long, healthy life

How to live a long, healthy life

Australians are living longer than ever before, currently ranking seventh in the world for longevity. Ahead of us are the countries of Japan, Italy, Iceland, Switzerland, Israel and Sweden.

Seventh is great, but what can we learn from those countries ahead of us to climb the ladder to number one?

Source: The Business Insider

The facts on longevity in Australia

For those in good health, non-indigenous men in Australia can expect to live to just over 80 years old and women just over 84 years old.

We are living longer than ever before and not just in Australia. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) life expectancy across the globe has risen by 5 years from 2000 to 2015.

Sources: ABS 3302.0; and WHO > Media Centre > News > Releases > 2016

Sadly our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people do not fare as well. Australia is not alone in the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Commentary around the reasons for the shortened life expectancy of indigenous people around the world is complex and political.

Perhaps by learning some of the secrets to longevity around the globe, we can gain some deeper insight into the shorter life spans of our indigenous population.

Let’s head straight to the country where people are living longest.

Longevity insights from Japan

Women in Japan have an average life span of almost 87 years, the highest life expectancy in the world as of 2015.

Longevity observation #1: Wealthier countries have populations that live longer

Gross national income (GNI) per capita and expenditure on health per capita is significantly higher than many countries with a lower life expectancy.

The total expenditure on health per capita in Japan is INT $ 3,727 and the gross national income INT $37. If we compare this expenditure per person to the country with the lowest life expectancy, Sierra Leone, this drops right down to INT $ 224. The gross national income per capita in Sierra Leone was INT $1.

For all of the top 7 countries in terms of longevity, the expenditure on health per capita and GNI per capita were well above other countries.

Sources: WHO > Countries > Sierra Leone statistics and WHO > Countries > Japan statistics

Longevity observation #2: A healthy diet and low obesity rates equals longer life expectancy

While Japan has not been immune to the global growth of fast food chains, the overall obesity rate in Japan continues to stay low. Around 3.8% of Japanese men were classed as obese and 3.4% of women, compared to 24.4 % of men in the UK and 25.1% of women.

Source: Age Watch Organisation > Secrets of longevity

Longevity observation #3: Good genetics will extend your life if longevity runs in the family

The well documented Japanese Okinawa Centenarian Study is a longitudinal research project examining over 900 Okinawa centenarians and over 70s.

One of the key findings is that genetic factors do seem to play a part in how long you live. Okinawan centenarians were found to have a genetic make-up that reduced their risk to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. They were also found to have 80% less breast cancer and prostate cancer, and less than half the ovarian and colon cancers of North Americans.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study did find that siblings of the centenarians also showed a lower mortality risk (when assessed at each 5 year interval until 90) than other peers of the same age.

Source: Okinawa Centenarian Study

Longevity observation #4: A healthy lifestyle will add years to your life

The Okinawa elders boasted good cardiovascular and artery health. The study found that the well matured seniors shared a lifestyle of regular exercise, moderate alcohol intake, avoidance of cigarette smoking and a ‘stress-minimising psycho-spiritual outlook’. The traditional diet of Okinawan centenarians was a low kilojoule, low glycemic load diet and hara hachi bu – a cultural practice of only eating until they feel like they are 80% full (I’m trying this, starting tomorrow)!

According to WHO, more than 98 percent of Japanese children walk or cycle to school, setting up an early life-long habit of being physically on the move.

Did I mention that Japanese people are living longer than the rest of the world...?

Sources: Okinawa Centenarian Study and WHO > Kobe Centre > Interventions > Urban Planning

 

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