Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lists of Where People Live the Longest
The secret of a long life consists of not shortening it.

I’ve been reading a 1976 book on Vilcabamba, Ecuador,  Los Viejos, Secrets of Long Life from the Secret Valley.  The author is Grace Halsell, a free lance writer.  She lived with the people in Vilcabamba for a year,  sleeping on rough boards  in their huts, eating their food, walking their mountain trails,  interviewing them to find their secrets of living to 100 and beyond.   When she was  there  the people of Vilcabamba had no  electricity,  no refrigerators,  no motorized vehicles,  and they lived and  ate  off   the land
 She attributed their longevity to living within their means, never  retiring,  relying on their two doctors – their left leg and right leg- to get around,  eating no beef,  getting their proteins from cheese, vegetables, and nuts,  and staying socially active and loving each other.
As it turns out,  accounts  like Halsell’s of extraordinary long lives  in a handful of places – the Soviet state of Georgia , Hunza Valley in Pakistan, and the Valley of Vilcabama in Ecuador -  have been misleading for a variety of reasons -  lack of accurate birth and health records,  exaggerated pride of natives in their purported longevity,  and  higher than normal average age due to migration of the young to the cities.
But  this exaggeration of extraordinarily long lives should not distract from the fact that people in these places share certain things that prolong their lives -  regular physical exercise;    avoidance of smoking and reliance on drugs and alcohol,  consistent engagements in mental,social activities, and productive hobbies  like gardening ,   clean environments  free of  pollution,  and cultures that re-inforce healthy life styles  and value seniors as members of their communities. 
There may be other factors as well – living on islands removed from toxic  and violent environments,   climates that encourage outdoor exercise,  less stressful rural life styles,   cooperative community  living,   low consumption of processed foods, and easy access to fruits, vegetables, and other foods with high anti-oxidant content.
That’s  enough of a preamble.  Here are places, states, and nationsl where people live the longest.   The United States is not among the leading nations in terms of longevity.  Depending on which list you consult – we rank between 34th and 40th in longevity, with an average of live expectancy of 81 for women, and 76 for men.

Top Five Longevity Places
1.       Okinawa

2.       Sardinia, Italy 

3.      Loma Linda, California 

4.      Nicoya, Costa Rica

5.      Icaria, Greece

Top Five States in U.S. for Longevity, Overall
1.         Hawaii, 81.3

2.        Minnesota, 81.1

3.      Connecticut, 80.8 

4.       Utah, 80.2
5.       North Dakota, 79.6

Top Five Countries for Longevity, Male, Female
1.        Japan, 80, 87 

2.       Spain, 80.86

3.      Andorra,  80.86

4.      Australia, 80.85
5.      Switzerland, 80,85

(34th U.S,  76, 81)

These lists beg an obvious question.  Why do Americans live less long?  The answers, I suspect, reside in these interrelated factors,  not necessarily in this order,  stress and  fast-paced living,  early deaths from motor  accidents and gun  violence,  income inequality and poverty ,  decline in family cohesion,  overuse of drugs and alcohol,   incessant smoking,  rampant obesity,   poor diets eaten on the run, fast food and processed food with too much carbohydrates and sugar at the expense of fresh fruits and vegetables, and limited  access to affordable care.  Taken together, these things shorten our lives rather than lengthening them. 

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