Three Old Towns

What do Okinawa in Japan, Ovodda in Sardinia and Loma Linda in the U.S. have in common? They’re on three different continents with different languages and cultures, each living in different ways. There’s just one thing that these communities share: they’re places with a particularly high life expectancy (

Let’s look at Loma Linda first. It’s in the California sunshine and there’s lots of speculation about why its residents live up to a decade longer than those elsewhere. Some of it may be linked to the numerous Seventh-Day Adventists calling it home. People who attend regular religious services – and not just Christian ones – do tend to have improved longevity. Maybe it’s some kind of spiritual fulfilment, or just that it functions as a way to reduce stress. For the Seventh-Day Adventists, it often also means a vegetarian diet and no smoking, both of which are helpful from a health perspective.

Then there’s Okinawa. Not only do Okinawans live a long time, but people in their 70s sometimes have the health and physique of someone 20 years younger. Again, scientists aren’t certain what’s going on, but their speculation centers on diet, with lots of soy products and fruit and vegetables with a host of nutrients. Then there’s something unique to the island. Residents eat until they’re only 80% full, rather than until they’re completely not hungry. It’s a practice called hara hachi bu and it means that not only are calories reduced, but it may encourage the body to go into a type of self-preservation mode.

Ovodda is another small town, and it’s on another island – this time Sardinia, off the coast of Italy. They’re not all vegetarians, and they don’t live on tofu while counting calories, but again, the local diet is important. This time, it’s the legendary Mediterranean diet, full of olive oil, legumes, vegetables, fish and dairy. That doesn’t explain it on its own, though – the Mediterranean diet is eaten right around its eponymous sea. Ovodda’s a pretty insular community with most of its residents descended from just a few original settlers, suggesting a strong genetic component.

So if you want to live longer, you might want to consider finding a community where that’s the norm, or trying to create one. The right combination of diet and attitude, shared with others, may put you on the right path.

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