It is true that more and more Americans are living to 100 years old and beyond. The actor, Kirk Douglas, who is the father of the actor Michael Douglas, just turned 104 this past week. While most of us shake our heads in admiration at hearing of individuals becoming centenarians, the real question should perhaps be what the quality of life is like for these extraordinary individuals. Simply reaching the impressive age of 100 or greater doesn't always mean that the individual is healthy, relatively speaking. Many Americans who reach 100 are extremely frail and live in a nursing home because they need constant assistance with the activities of daily living or round-the-clock monitoring.
But there is a segment of the world centenarian population living in a small Japanese town on the island of Okinawa that defy the centenarian stereotype. 475 of Okinawa's 1.4 million people have reached or exceeded their 100th birthday. This is an impressive population statistic.
But what's more important than being an impressive statistic is the fact that virtually all of these individuals are still active in their gardens, taking daily walks by themselves or preparing all of their own meals. These residents are often lean, youthful-looking and energetic. Why wouldn't anyone want to live that long if we could be more like these individuals?
There is ongoing research into what the secret of these individuals is but we do know they do not eat anything like a typical American diet. For one, vegetables of all kinds account for about 30 percent of their daily diets, they eat less rice than the rest of the Japanese population and they tend to eat more pork and chicken, as their source of meat protein. And they eat two locally grown products that are very high in antioxidants and flavonoids. One is a bitter melon and the other is a sour-tasting citrus fruit. These are eaten in either salad dressings or as thinly sliced garnishes. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in our American diets would go a long way to matching these two products' antioxidant levels.
And there is one other critical factor that researchers believe is a secret to these centenarians' success: A happy disposition and a positive attitude. They don't deny that life can be very difficult at times but they cope by quickly accepting the difficult moments in life for what they are and then they move on into a state of inner peace rather than obsessing or endlessly dwelling on the negative events.
Their advice to their younger counterparts--stay active, eat a healthy diet largely free of white sugar and unhealthy fats and try to stay busy with hobbies or other interests that involve friends or family. Good advice indeed!