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Women’s longevity attributed to hard work, good spirits

Date Posted: 2008-01-04

Okinawan women are clinging to the world’s longevity title, and plenty of gerontologists are taking a close look at what they’re doing right.

Local women are living to be 86.88 years of age, the best of any prefecture in Japan. Specialists say there are a number of reasons for Okinawa women outlasting ladies elsewhere, most notably diet, work ethics and a strong spirit. The Okinawa custom of family caring for its elderly members is a strong attribute, together with a feisty spirit that carries people in times of trouble.

Still, Okinawa Prefecture officials warn, the title is in danger of being lost, as Okinawa women take on trappings of modern lifestyles, including fast foods and instant foods that aren’t healthy or using natural herbs. The Ministry of Health notes that Okinawan foods contain more salt than the nationwide average, another factor leading to shorter life cycles.

Okinawan young people don’t exercise, the Prefecture official notes, using cars to get from place to place. The balance is wrong, he says, and adds Okinawan women have, over the past five years, become more fat. “Okinawa is called ‘Fat Okinawa’ by many,” he says, “and that’s a really bad image for Okinawa. We have to do some better things to change health thinking for the long term.”

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