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Japan’s ‘super-agers’ reveal secrets to extremely long life

Japan’s longest-living people avoid overeating, over-stressing, and being consistent with habits

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 13 December 2023 08:16 GMT
Nabi Tajima dead: World's oldest person dies in Japan aged 117

The world’s longest-living people in Japan have disclosed four secrets to living an extremely long life.

LongeviQuest, the organisation that verifies the ages of the world’s oldest people, confirmed four supercentenarians who have lived past the age of 110 this year. The list includes Japan’s oldest living person, Fusa Tatsumi, a woman who celebrated her 116th birthday in April. Tatsumi died from old age on Tuesday, December 12.

Yumi Yamamoto, the president of LongeviQuest who has been collecting the life stories of the world’s oldest people, revealed what Japan’s “super-agers” have in common that contribute to their long life span.

Being consistent with habits, not overeating, refraining from doing things in excess, and moving more were among some of the lifestyle habits the supercentenarians followed, according to Business Insider.

Ms Yamamoto said "most of the centenarians and supercentenarians I have met tend to have continued the same lifestyle habits throughout extended periods of time”.

She said that consistency of habits is the key to longevity in Japan even if it includes continuing to work after the age of 100 or drinking a glass of Japanese rice wine every day.

The longevity researcher, whose great-grandmother lived to the age of 116, said she was very disciplined and strict in her life and when that extends to the eating and sleeping habits it contributes to a longer life.

"What I’ve noticed in these supercentenarians is that they’re very disciplined and even strict on themselves in terms of the regimentation of their lifestyles,” she said.

“They don’t do anything to excess, and that goes not just for food things and drink but also not staying up all night," she said.

Kane Tanaka, the oldest recorded Japanese person and the second-oldest person in recorded history, reached the age of 119. Although she enjoyed Coca-Cola, Ms Yamamoto mentioned that she limited herself to just one bottle per day.

“She wasn’t addicted to it, and she wouldn’t drink to excess. This is something that I think is common in Japan. Japanese people eat in a balanced way and they don’t eat or drink to excess,” she said. “And that goes not just for food and drink, but also things like not staying up all night.”

Another common habit among supercentenarians was that they practice “hara hachi bu” – eating only until 80 per cent full.

“There’s a saying in Japanese, which says you should only eat until you’re 80 per cent full, so you should leave space at the end of a meal,” Ms Yamamoto said.

It helps people practice mindful eating as well as calorie restriction, which several studies have suggested reduces inflammation and help in longevity, she said.

“It is about having both balance and routine in life,” she said.

Another secret contributing to longevity is “moving more” and incorporating movement into their daily lives, she said.

People in Japan take part in what is known as radio gymnastics which is a radio broadcast that asks listeners to do body weight exercises for five minutes a day, Ms Yamamoto said.

And lastly, Ms Yamamoto urged people not to stress, an advice that supercentenarians and centenarians gave.

“Don’t allow yourself to be in an environment which is too stressful or overwhelming,” she said.

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