Study examines food, attitude and habits that promote longevity
- What is the secret of the long life enjoyed by the Japanese? What is the secret to the healthy longevity enjoyed by the Japanese?
- Japan has been brutalized by conflict and damage from World War II. However, it has become a giant on a global level.
- Is it the food, the tea they drink, the attitude, or some other X-factor that helps Japanese citizens achieve extreme longevity?
Key factors that help Japanese people lead a life of good health, mobility and good cognitive abilities.
- Ikigai, the Japanese equivalent of ‘joy of living‘: The Japanese live with ‘ikigai‘ – an ancient philosophy that preaches that one should seek some joy and purpose in life instead of just existing. It’s about having a practice that guides you to fulfillment. It is not about instant gratification but surely about defining your purpose in life, your personal mission and discovering your full potential. The goal is to define what you can best bring to the world, what you are good at and what you love to do. Psychologists explain that this leads to a feeling of higher self-esteem and puts us in tune with our abilities.
- It’s encoded in the genes: Apart from good health care and good diet, Japanese people also have a genetic advantage due to two genes in particular – DNA 5178 and genotype ND2-237Met – which are prevalent among the Japanese population. Not all Japanese people will have this type of gene, but it is common especially in those with longer lifespans. These genes appear to improve lifespan by blocking age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease.
- Leave the car and walk: Don’t be fooled by some of the world’s best cars and motorcycles from Japan. The average Japanese likes to stay active, walking, climbing stairs and squatting. Do you remember Seiza – the traditional social kneeling position that involves resting on your shins and tucking your feet under your buttocks? Or Shuudan Koudou — the Japanese art of synchronized precision walking? Only Japan could have made something like this. Their toilets are also designed for squatting, not sitting, ensuring the core stays engaged – healthier for the gut and your muscles too! The average Japanese prefers to take the train or walk to work.
- “Hara Hash Bun Me”: This stands for the Japanese concept that one should only eat until you are 80% full (8 out of 10 parts). It usually takes at least 20 minutes for the brain to receive the signal from the body telling it to stop eating because it has filled up on nutrients. This practice is the “Japanese clock and reminder to stop eating” which prevents overheating. The Japanese serve smaller portions and encourage a slower drinking style. Portions are served on smaller plates.
- A cleaner environment and good healthcare facilities: The Japanese have an advanced healthcare system. Regular health campaigns that guide people to incorporate healthy lifestyles like reduced salt intake and free TB treatment are a norm. Japan’s investment in public health in the 1950s and 1960s to create a health and hygiene conscious culture is paying off, according to a research paper published in Lancet. The Japanese are picky about practices related to hygiene. Landfills are not a threat but are transformed into ecological parks.
- Principles of meals: In Japan, families eat together by sitting on the floor and using chopsticks, which significantly slows down the eating process. The Japanese diet is lean and balanced, with staple foods like seasonal seaweed fruits, omega-rich fish, rice, whole grains, tofu, soybeans, miso, and raw green vegetables. Low amounts of saturated fats and sugars and are loaded with vitamins and minerals – amply seen in how the obesity rate is incredibly low in Japan.
- The tradition of drinking tea: Who hasn’t heard of the Japanese tea ceremony? The ancient drink from Japan is rich in antioxidants that boost the immune system, help fight cancer, aid digestion, increase energy levels and regulate blood pressure. Some say that the elements in the tea infusion improve cell health and help neurons fight age-related deterioration.
- Elderly and aging people are cared for: Indians can relate well to the way Japan treats its Dada-Dadi, Nana-Nani people. No segregation or rejection of aging family members. Just like in India, most grandparents in Japan also live among family members – and families prefer to have them at home rather than sending them to care homes, as is the norm in many western countries. It is normal for grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren and pass on some traditional wisdom to them. The sense of security that being together brings benefits both the elderly and the young.
Warning: The tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your physician or healthcare professional if you have specific questions about any medical topic.