Search private
retirement homes


Monday May 19, 2014

RICHARD BÉLIVEAU’S COLUMN Healthy Aging – the Exceptional Longevity of Okinawa Inhabitants

The Japanese island of Okinawa has been a fascinating case for scientific researchers for a long time, given the extraordinary life expectancy of its inhabitants. Okinawans live a very balanced lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular physical activity, minimal stress and highly developed social relationships, including with seniors. They enjoy life, and reap exceptional benefits from it:  not only does Okinawa have the highest number of centennials per habitant (40 per 100,000 people, compared to 17 in Canada), but these 100-year-old seniors are healthy and live an active lifestyle very late in life. Many Okinawans continue to practice martial arts or underwater diving well into their nineties, a feat made possible by a strong bone structure and excellent heart health.  
The quality of the Okinawans’ diet is one of the main reasons behind their exceptional longevity. The Okinawa diet features a lot of plant-based foods (sweet potato, tofu, algae, green vegetables, etc.), few meats (fish & pork), very little sugar and an abundance of green tea.   In addition, one of the main principles of the Okinawan diet is called hara ichi bun: according to this principle, the stomach must never be more than 80% full, and one must always stop eating before feeling satiated. Consequently, no Okinawans are overweight and the frequency of heart disease and cancer is a lot lower than in the Occident.
Despite our cultural differences, what the Okinawans’ lifestyle teaches us, is that a diet that mainly includes plant-based foods, combined to regular physical activity and a stimulating social climate, is one of the best formulas to live a long and healthy life. It’s up to us to live by their example, by applying these same principles in our daily lives to improve our overall quality of life.  

Do you like this story?

Back to news list