The Japanese appear to know what they’re doing when it comes to aging gracefully, as the world’s largest population of older healthy adults resides on the Japanese island of Okinawa. In fact, the last two people who held the title of world’s oldest person (116 years old) were both from Japan. This is why Home Care Assistance’s Balanced Care Method™ (BCM) is modeled after studies of these long-lived Japanese elders. Below are 5 things that the Eastern world can teach us about healthy aging:
- Clean arteries require work: Compared to Westerners, senior Okinawans have low cholesterol, low homocysteine levels and impressively clean arteries, which lower their risk for stroke and coronary heart disease by as much as 80%. Although genes do play a role, a larger part is due to a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, avoidance of smoking, moderate alcohol use, blood pressure control and low stress levels.
- Focus on living better, not just longer: Studies have shown that Okinawans live better in older years because of social ties and eating right. They have substantially lower rates of dementia than Westerners and they suffer less than half the risk for hip fractures.
- Exercise should be a community activity: In just about every neighborhood park, you will notice groups of people practicing the centuries-old martial art known as Tai Chi, a series of slow, meditative body movements.
- It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle: When researchers studied the traditional diets of Okinawans, they found that their diet is made up of 30% green and yellow vegetables. Although the typical Japanese diet is heavy in rice, the traditional Okinawa diet contains less rice and more sweet potato, and 30% of the sugar found in the traditional Japanese diet.
- Naps are cruicial: Nowhere in the world are mid-day naps so highly regarded as they are in the East. Regular, short naps have been known to increase productivity, improve cognitive functioning, reduce stress and even decrease one’s risk of heart disease.