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People in locales such as Sardinia, Italy and Okinawa, Japan, have something in common: Their residents outlive the rest of us by an average of 10 years, with many pushing the envelope of life past 100. And the men in most of these regions buck the global trend by living nearly as long as the women. So what are their secrets? We asked the experts for the answers.
Secrets From Sardinia, Italy
The Sardinians’ record of longevity may be due in part to DNA. But the active lifestyle and long-standing social customs are also at play, experts say. Their secrets:
1. Drink Wine
Like most Italians, Sardinians down a couple of glasses of wine a day. The region’s local wine is far richer in heart-healthy flavonoids than most other varieties, a study in found. Try Cannonau, a lively red wine from Sardinia, with hints of cherry and peppermint (available at Al Borgo Italian Restaurant, Tel: 6737-3546).
2. Continue Learning
Sardinians continue working well into their 90s. But you don’t literally have to “work” all your life; just keep working at learning. In a 2009 American study, folks who learnt new skills reported feeling younger more than those who didn’t. Acquiring new knowledge may in turn reinforce youthfulness. So, learn a new language or take a wine-tasting class.
Secrets From Okinawa Japan
This island is Japan’s poorest prefecture – yet it has one of the world’s highest rates of centenarians. Okinawans also have healthier-than-average arteries and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
3. Eat Sweet Potatoes
Instead of rice, the Okinawan staple carb is sweet potato, which can lower cholesterol and fight inflammation, according to a Japanese study. Sweet potatoes are rich in potassium, vitamin C, carotenoids and fibre – nutrients often lacking in the Singapore diet. And unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes won’t significantly spike your blood sugar. Eat them Okinawan-style – added to soup or seasoned with turmeric, a potential cancer fighter.
4. Improve Your Social Life
Okinawans commonly form “moais” – a support group of four to five friends. These moais meet daily or weekly just to chat. Your move: Prioritise regular hangouts with your buddies. A recent American study showed that older adults with subpar social lives were more likely to die of heart disease and cancer than those with more connection.
Secrets From Nicoya, Costa Rica
At 60, Nicoyan men are twice as likely to reach the 90-year mark as men in most developed countries, says a Costa Rican demographic expert.
5. Avoid Stress To Toughen Up Your Chromosomes
Experts analysed blood samples from elderly Nicoyans and found they had longer-than-average telomeres, the ends of the chromosomes that dictate how many times cells can divide before dying. Longer telomeres have been linked to longer life, so avoid anything that may shorten them – stress, for example.
6. Have Fewer Belongings
Having fewer belngings is an easy way to reduce stress. So, instead of buying things, devote disposable income to doing things. In a 2010 American study, people felt less satisfaction and more regret after looking back on material purchases than they did after investing in experiences.
7. Do Gardening
Switch to locally grown food. One payoff is more nutrition: Produce stored for one week can lose vitamin C as well as B vitamins, according to a study review. For even more benefits, grow your own container garden. Vegetables like bean sprouts and tomatoes can thrive in 4- to 8-litre containers. Recent US research found that older home gardeners were more active and satisfied with their lives and, not surprisingly, ate more vegetables than non-gardeners.
Secrets from Ikaria Island, Greece
Locals on this Aegean island know exactly what to eat and when to sleep.
8. Eat Fish To Beat Depression
Depression, which has been shown to shorten life, is exceptionally rare among Ikarian men: A 2010 Greek study found that Ikarians who ate about 300g of fish a week were 66 per cent less likely to battle the blues. Their diet of sardines, gilthead (a bream) and tope (a shark) is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, which may speed transmission of mood-regulating brain chemicals. Go for fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna, which pack the most omega-3 punch.
9. Take Naps
Eighty-four per cent of the oldest Ikarian men – and everyone over age 90 – take daily afternoon naps, another Greek study found. And in an analysis of 23,000 people in Greece, researchers found that regular napping can slash heart disease deaths by 37 per cent. The ideal time to doze? Shortly after lunch. You’ll add onto sleep from the night before rather than subtracting from sleep you’ll get tonight, says an expert.
Secrets from Loma Linda, California
This little-known city is populated with Seventh-Day Adventists, who avoid smoking, boozing and caffeine. In the US, studies show that male Adventists live about seven more years than other white male residents. Here are certain aspects of their lifestyle worth emulating.
10. Be Religious
In a 2008 study, people who devote time to their religion at least once a week were less likely to die over the next 8½ years than those who don’t. If your worship has waned, you can still tap into the effect. Regularly meet with likeminded people to nourish your soul. Volunteering, for example, can help beat depression, a 2010 Israeli study found.
11. Rest To Beat Stress
Adventists designate a day of rest every week. Re-examine your downtime: Are you truly relaxing? Or are you bar-hopping, working from home or running a taxi service for your kids? You don’t have to set aside a full day – a midday walk once a weekend works. A 2010 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that a walk outside is more invigorating than a walk indoors.