In places where longevity reigns, locals tend to eat balanced, mostly plant-based diets; partake in daily low-impact activities; focus on family and spirituality; and carve out plenty of time to enjoy the simple things in life, like napping. In addition, warmer climates might allow people to live longer, according to some studies. Stanford University researchers found that warmer conditions over a period of time in the United States lowered the mortality rates, compared to the winter months, when the death rates peaked.Ocean proximity might also offer health benefits. A study from the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health showed that people living near the coast tended to have better overall health than people living inland.
Ikaria ( Greece): grecians are active, often partaking in farming and fishing, and make time in their daily lives to socialize with loved ones, walk in the sun and nap. The destination is home to mineral hot springs, which have been found to relieve pain, increase circulation and help with digestion. Locals are additionally known to drink a local herbal tea that’s a health elixir jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. That, combined with late bedtimes offset by daily naps and a strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet—eating lots of fruits, homegrown vegetables, beans (especially garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils), whole grains, potatoes and olive oil—propels 1 in 3 Ikarians to live into their 90s.
Ogliastra -Sardinia ( Italy): access to farm-fresh fruits, vegetables and other produce is commonplace. Even the cheese and milk Sardinians love to consume come from a healthy source: grass-fed goats, and drink lots of red wine. Also, a moderate amount of carbs to go with it, like flat bread, sourdough bread and barley. And to balance those two food groups out, Sardinian centenarians also eat plenty of fennel, fava beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, almonds, milk thistle tea and wine from Grenache grapes. The majority of Sardinian centenarians are men who work as shepherds and farmers, and they tend to spend ample time walking and sharing camaraderie with their companions.
Okinawa: locals also practice many healthy daily habits, like gardening, cultivating medicinal herbs and spending time in social settings. And, perhaps most importantly, the country’s diet is admirable: locals consume hearty yet healthy foods such as sweet potatoes and soy tofu, brown rice, green tea and shitake mushrooms while limiting meat consumption. Okinawa women credit their long lives to having moai, the Japanese word for a group of life-long supportive friends meant to be there through all of life’s ups and downs, which provides social support strong enough to dull mental stressors and reinforce shared healthy behaviors.
Nicoya: the Costa Rican people traditionally get the majority of their caloric intake from beans, squash and corn, plus tropical fruits. This plant-forward, nutrient-dense diet— and plenty of time outdoors—makes for strong, well-nourished bodies. As Buettner writes, “The big secret of the Nicoyan diet was the ‘three sisters’ of Meso-American agriculture: beans, corn and squash.” Those three staples, plus papayas, yams, bananas and peach palms (a small Central American oval fruit high in vitamins A and C), are what fuel the region’s elders over the century.
Singapore: with broad access to the country’s state-of-the-art medical facilities and what’s been called a ‘miracle’ healthcare system, the country has one of the lowest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world, and makes preventative care a focus of its healthcare.
“You will see a lot of people going to gyms or exercising in the public parks, which are plentiful,” said Bino Chua, a current resident and travel blogger at I Wander.
The country even recently opened its first therapeutic park, designed to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing among aging adults. “Cigarettes and alcohol are heavily taxed and cost a lot more than in other countries.”
The Hunza Valley (Pakistan): legend has it that the Hunza people routinely live until age 90 in good health, with many living as long as 120. They eat a diet primarily of fruits, grains, and vegetables.
The Hunza Valley is situated in a remote, pristine area of northern Pakistan, where locals grow their own food and utilize fresh glacier water for drinking and bathing. Cut-off from any nearby cities or commercial hubs, the Hunza do not consume any processed foods and eat a diet rich in vegetables, milk, grains and fruit, especially apricots.
The Hunza are known to practice yoga, including yogic breathing techniques and meditation. They are also said to be aware of the importance of relaxation and energy management, resting when they need to and consciously mitigating anything that may cause emotional stress.
The Vilcabamba ( Ecuador): is a breathtaking village located at the foot of the Mandango Mountain, surrounded by forests and farm lands. Here in the southern region of Ecuador people are reported to reach age 100 and beyond while staying in good health. Some people attribute this longevity to the natural mineral water, others simply to their unique lifestyle. Vilcabamba has always been a farming community, with the majority of the community working hard in their fields every day. The Vilcabamban diet can almost be summed up in two phrases: vegetables picked fresh from the garden, eaten the same day. They also eat fruits right off the trees.
Loma Linda (California): is a community that includes about 9,000 Seventh-Day Adventists — a religious group that is significantly longer-lived than the average American. Adventist culture is focused on healthful habits such as vegetarianism, and warns against alcohol and smoking. They also follow a “biblical” diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, and drink only water. (Some of them eat small amounts of meat and fish.) Sugar is taboo, too. Their top foods include avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and soy milk.
Monaco: due to the proximity to the sea, seafood is a very important ingredient in their diets, as are fruit and vegetables, taking inspiration from both French and Italian cuisine. As well as having one of the healthiest diets on the planet, Monaco’s state-funded healthcare system as well as high levels of disposable income has helped increased life expectancy by providing excellent health services to its citizens.
Hong Kong: has an environment designed to help people live healthier lives and make healthier choices. In an age-friendly community, policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environment are designed to support and enable older people to “age actively” – that is, to live in security, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society. Hong Kong is uniquely surrounded by ocean and land, which enables greater access to fish, fruits, and vegetables, which are found in the local cuisine. Rice, nut oils, and a combination of meat and vegetables provides whole diets.
Switzerland: it’s estimated that a whopping 96 percent of people in Switzerland say they have at least one person they could rely on in a time of need due to community involvement across the nation. The Swiss are well-educated, participate in elections and also rank their satisfaction with life as fairly high. Like much of Europe, many cities in Switzerland are very pedestrian-friendly and highly walkable. Dark chocolate is believed to have protective properties, with some studies saying it can ward off heart attacks and strokes. And other research has shown that it can actually have anti-aging benefits.
“It’s a really big thing over there,” says Rosenthal of the dairy product that’s eaten on muesli, in desserts, and as a meal on its own. Yogurt is full of probiotics, which can aid in digestion and provide an immune system boost, as well as healthy protein.