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Okinawans looking forward to shorter life spans

Date Posted: 2002-11-24

Okinawa’s famed and prided longevity may soon be a thing of the past, according to experts that appeared in a recent Ryukyu Shimpo Nutrition and Health Forum held in Harbor View Hotel in City. A report published at the forum said that Okinawan men have, in fact, already lost their longevity number one position to men from Nagano Prefecture. The report also said that although Okinawan women still hold the number one position in Japan, they also will lose it, sooner rather than later.

A specialist from Nagano Prefecture said that the prefecture has long campaigned to its citizens to change their life styles and eating habits towards healthier customs. “We have been most successful in convincing our people to use less salt. We have also promoted physical activity for many years with very good results,” he said. An Okinawan panelist confessed that people here face some problems. “Our biggest problem is that many middle-aged Okianwans are becoming fat. Men also smoke too much, and those factors are leading people to die younger,” he said.

Nagano is also credited for having changed the medical focus from curing health problems to preventing them. They also created a volunteer network right after WWII to support and promote healthy living habits. Every resident of the prefecture is also granted a complete health check every three years, a system that has led to discovering possible health problems early and when they are easily curable.

In Okinawa the problem is the disappearance of the traditional food and eating habits. Especially, young people increasingly prefer westernized diets that include steaks, hamburgers, hotdogs and French fries. “That will inevitably lead to shorter life and more health problems,” says Kayoko Matsumoto, a specialist in traditional Okinawan diet. “The trick would be to get young people return to traditional foods, but unfortunately I don’t see how that could be possible,” she says.

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