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Okinawa losing grip on longevity titles

Date Posted: 2007-09-21

Okinawans, once the world’s longest living people, are slipping in the records race.

The latest research by Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare shows Okinawan women are sliding in comparison to women of other nations. Results of a survey conducted every five years shows Okinawa women losing ground. The life expectancy of Okinawa women increased only 0.9 years between 2000 and 2005, while those on the mainland were up 1.4 years.

Men fared far worse. Boasting the longest lives anywhere in 1995, Okinawa men have fallen to 26th place in the world. While Japan as a whole saw the life expectancy of men increase one year, Okinawa men are living only five months longer.

The Ministry predicts the numbers will continue decline, as young people aren’t eating the healthy Okinawa diet they once did, and aren’t working or exercising as much as their elders do. Looking ahead to 2050, government officials say the life span of Okinawans will be in a downturn.

Okinawan women’s are becoming more susceptible to cancer and heart disease, as well. Okinawans were well below average as 2000 statistics were studied, with the fewest cancer deaths reported. That’s changed, as Okinawa women now rank 13th in contracting cancer. Nationwide, cancer deaths dropped from 103 per 100,000 population to 97 in 2005, while Okinawa’s numbers were reversed. Only 87 people died in 2000, but 89 per 100,000 population died in 2005.

Lung cancer remains a concern, with 13 cases per 100,000 population, and heart disease is nearly as bad. Officials say women’s heart disease has increased .4% in the five years since the last study, while the nationwide figure dropped to 3.2 persons per 100,000 population. Lifestyle changes, including healthy diets, are again being attributed to causes for the change.

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