The number of years that a human being lives depends on numerous factors, including aspects that we have control over (lifestyle) and others that we simply can’t control (genetics). Medical breakthroughs, easy access to health care, and an increased standard of living are some of the things that have contributed greatly to the massive increase in the average life expectancy registered over the last century.
According to a 2019 report carried out by the United Nations, the latest available regarding this topic, the Japanese life expectancy at birth is about 84.7 years. A number that is way above the average worldwide life expectancy of 71 years estimated by the World Health Organization. The Japanese must be doing something right.
4. Longevity diet
As far as our health is concerned, eating a healthy and balanced diet is one of the most important factors to maintain physical fitness and avoid a wide range of diseases that can be quite serious. Like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – four health conditions that are leading causes of death worldwide. Eating habits in Japan are quite different from the ones established in the vast majority of Western cultures. Japanese people have a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, soy products, grains, seaweed, and seafood.
They also don’t eat red meat and dairy products as regularly as people who live in Europe or America, and their portions are also on the smaller side. Furthermore, Japanese people often use fermented seasonings such as soy sauce, vinegar, sake, and miso to cook most typical dishes. This characteristic of Japanese food ends up limiting the consumption of salt and sugar immensely (two popular ingredients in western cuisine), which benefits long-term health and is the key to nutrition for longevity. The food is also either steamed, simmered, or eaten raw.
These are the three main cooking methods in japan, all of which preserve the ingredients’ nutritional aspect, allowing the body to absorb a greater amount of essential nutrients, especially when compared to frying in oil and other cooking methods that use high heat and end up breaking down nutrients during the process.
3. Active and healthy lifestyle
Combining a healthy diet with an active lifestyle and a regular workout plan can do wonders for your health. Walking and biking daily to move around the city is something that Japanese people do a lot – and it is helping them stay in good shape. The health benefits of walking are pretty well-known: it burns calories, lower blood sugar, improves heart health, gives more energy, improves the overall mood, and it can even help people deal with joint pain. That’s the main reason why doctors all over the world recommend this activity as a fundamental part of any active lifestyle to people of all ages and fitness levels.
Besides walking a lot during old age, Japanese seniors also try to stay engaged in a hobby. Gardening, for example, is very popular. This kind of mindset adds purpose to life after retirement (culturally, the professional career is very important for Japanese people), which is extremely positive for both their physical and mental health. In Japanese culture, this concept is known as ikigai (the term can be translated to something like “reason for being”), meaning it is crucial to live longer and feel better in the later stages of life.
The outstanding hygiene habits of the Japanese people is key to their longevity. Kids are taught from a very young age to keep their personal space properly clean and disinfected and be extra careful when in a public space – it is not uncommon to see kids cleaning the classroom at the end of the school day. These sorts of practices end up having a huge influence throughout their lives.
As we all should be aware by now, good personal hygiene, which includes proper respiratory hygiene practices, is essential to prevent infections and keep our organism safe from dangerous viruses and bacteria. That’s exactly why Japanese people wash their hands regularly and start wearing a mask as soon as they suspect they might be sick – a safety measure that’s very common in Asian countries. These small actions prevent viruses like the flu (Influenza) from spreading rapidly and reaching the most vulnerable part of the population, the elderly.
The fact that the Japanese spend a great deal of time with their families has an enormous influence on their happiness and quality of life. These two things have their fair share of importance in life expectancy. After all, enjoying quality time with our favorite people promotes good mental and physical health. For older people, having the family around is even more important – unlike what happens in the United States of America (for example.) In Japan, having multiple generations living in the same household is quite common. _ In addition to all this, we must also consider that there has been a great government effort to increase the average life expectancy in Japan through a huge investment in the health system. The country has one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world, with high-quality medical services available to the population at an affordable cost.
The investment made in health infrastructures and technology allows their doctor to detect and prevent a series of complicated health issues in a timely manner – it’s also worth mentioning that Japan has several leading experts in numerous different medical fields. Many health awareness programs have helped the population realize the importance of taking good care of their health and know what to do in their daily lives to maintain it for as long as possible. All this has contributed to making Japan one of the heathiest places on Earth.