The Lifestyle Secrets of Okinawan Centenarians

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CNN has a new series called “Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta”, and its first episode examines the lifestyles of the impressive centenarians of Okinawa, Japan.

Nearly two-thirds of the residents of Okinawa are still functioning independently at age 97. That meant they were in their own homes, cooking their own meals and living their lives fully — at nearly 100 years old!

Here are three factors noted in the show:

Ikigai. This means having a sense of purpose in life. Gupta says that one way to figure this out is to first imagine that you no longer needed to do anything for money. In that case, what would you regret not doing with your life? What do you love, and what does the world need?

ikigai

Here is a previous post on Ikigai – Finding Your “Reason For Being”. I have noticed that many people who seek out financial independence feel something “wrong” about their current trade-your-life-for-money environment. They are not living a life aligned with their “ikigai”.

Moai. This means having a social group within the community that has common interests and can provide both financial and emotional support. Family is important, but this appears to be an additional support system. This social component of longevity is critical and should not be overlooked.

Hara hachi bu. This means that you should stop eating when you are 80% full (and thus still a little bit hungry). People in Okinawa eat fewer calories in general, and the calories that they do eat tend to come from sweet potatoes, soybeans (legumes), a variety of vegetables, and only a little meat.

Okinawans centarians have also been examined in the book Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (which I have not yet read). Here is another Venn diagram from the Wikipedia entry that shows the common characteristics between Okinawa and two other Blue Zones (Loma Linda, USA and Sardinia, Italy).

Bottom line. It’s not just living for a long time, but it’s living an active, engaged, happy life for a long time. You won’t get this by taking the right pills from orange bottles. You need to spend your time doing something that you feel matters to the world. You need love and support from other humans. You need to eat natural foods, but not too much.



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Comments

  1. Healthy and Wealthy says:

    There are numerous parallels between achieving longevity/healthy life and financial health/independence. The basic concepts for success are not complicated or expensive. The problem is there is so much “noise” from companies trying to make it seem complicated and telling you that that success can only be achieved by buying their expensive product (special processed food and supplements, high-fee actively managed mutual fund or “secret” trading program, etc.). If you consider the concept of “follow the money,” it becomes more apparent. For example, fresh fruit and produce don’t have much advertising, but the packaged/processed food companies do because there’s a higher profit margin. That doesn’t make their product better. Same with that high-priced investment advisor who says he’s going to put you in 17 specialized funds and time the market with his “inside” information. It’s all unnecessary, just buy and hold an index fund. The simple way really can be more effective!
    Also, there is the issue of delayed gratification. Pass up that extra serving of food = slimmer waistline. Pass up buying that shiny new toy = bigger bank balance. Remember the longer-term goal and find the gratification in that. It all adds up, little by little. And unlike all the advertising messages, there are no magic pills or secret formulas for overnight success. You really can do it easily all on your own. Sure, there’s nothing “sexy” about that nor so exciting to talk about at a cocktail party, but that’s ok. You will be living the good life and others will still be looking for the next shortcut that doesn’t exist. Trust in yourself, keep it simple, and enjoy life!

  2. No doubt that eating well (based on plants, zero meat, field eggs, many antioxidants), exercising lightly, being in contact with nature and keeping your mind occupied are the keys to maintaining a healthy life and a full old age

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