For Condé Nast Traveler, by Meredith Carey.
Tales of a fountain of youth have spread around the world for centuries, and while so far no one’s discovered such a magical fountain, a few countries’ senior citizens seem to have found the perfect combination of diet, activity and healthcare, leading them to live years longer than others. The World Economic Forum calculates life expectancy (or how long someone is expected to live if mortality patterns stay the same) every year in its Global Competitiveness report. Here you’ll find the eleven countries with the longest-living residents and why they average over 80 years. Hint: it’s all in the diet.
1. 84 years, Hong Kong, SAR, China
One of the secrets here? Tai chi, the low-impact, slow-motion martial art exercise that has been proven to improve physical and cardiovascular strength, balance and meditation. Mainland China on the other hand has a life expectancy of just 75.8 years. But, Hong Kong has a low obesity rate and low smoking rates, plus the autonomous territory has a smaller population (around 7 million) compared to other countries on this list, which all help its #1 ranking.
2. 83.6 years, Japan
Part of Japan’s continued longevity comes from its diet. In fact, Okinawa has one of the largest populations of centenarians in the world, and thanks to their low-calorie diet that focuses on local vegetables and fruits, residents enjoy reduced risks of breast, prostate and stomach cancers. Outside of Okinawa, the Japanese eat less meat and saturated fat than many other areas of the world, and stay active later in life.
3. 83.1 years, Spain
The sense of family, community, and yes, the siesta, are all important pieces of Spaniards' long lives. Add in the Mediterranean diet and a low rate of heart disease rate, and you've got a recipe for longevity.
4. 82.8 years, Switzerland
OK, so you’re probably thinking we’re going to hype up the chocolate diet (which has been scientifically proven on and off to do a number of positive things). But it’s really the Swiss population’s wealth and healthcare system that keeps them living longer — not Swiss chocolate.
“It’s really the Swiss population’s wealth and healthcare system that keeps them living longer — not Swiss chocolate.”
5. 82.7 years, Italy
The secrets of the Mediterranean diet — high in locally sourced olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables and light fish — are out, and they’ve been shown to lower cardiovascular disease, help followers lose weight, and combat other adverse health effects. Combined with a warm climate and an emphasis on physical activity into old age, the Italian diet (with pizza and pasta eaten sparingly) plays a key role in longevity.
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