Live long and strong

If the Fountain of Youth actually existed, the entire human race would rush towards it in a mad frenzy. Unfortunately, as the clichéd saying goes, nothing is certain in life except death.

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Published: Sat 20 Apr 2013, 11:10 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:36 AM

For human beings, this fact is exceptionally difficult to come to terms with. Perhaps it is because of their infinite essence — their continuous desire to improve themselves and the world — that makes it difficult to acknowledge the finitude of corporal existence.

While people have come to terms with their mortality — albeit grudgingly — they still strive to know the secret to a long and healthy life. And at this point in time, there’s no one in a better position to tell us this secret than the 116-year-old Jiroemon Kimura (yes, you read it right) from Japan. Kimura, who celebrated his birthday on Friday, has the distinction of being the oldest living person. He received many messages on this occasion, including one from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Japan is also home to the oldest living woman — 115-years-old Misao Okawa.

While these two cases are obviously exceptional, Japan does have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. With an average life expectancy of nearly 82, Japan outstrips life expectancy of other industralised nations. Interestingly, East Asia has done much better than the US, the biggest superpower in the world, as far as life expectancy is concerned. People in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong have average life spans over 81 years. With their natives living to more than 80 years, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden and Australia fare the best among the Western nations.

Affluence and availability of healthcare plays a big role in determining high life spans, but diet is a big contributory factor as well — the reason why the US fares badly among other developed countries. While the Americans are busy gobbling their large beef burgers, the Japanese are savouring Tuna Sashimi and the Singaporean are munching on stir-fried Bok Choy and tofu. The Japanese are also prefer to walk, rather than drive to their destination.

So while all of us have failed in the quest for the Fountain of Youth, there are some who have discovered a simple key to a long life: Healthy food and exercise.

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