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Want to Live to be 100? Move to Sardinia

May 25, 2015
Plain English Version


Sardinia is a village on a mountain island in Italy. The population is 10,000. There are 21 centenarians (people who are 100 years of age or older) living there. In America, only four out of 10,000 people reach that age.

How do the Sardinian centenarians do it?

Some believe the answer is in the genes. Experts looked at health problems such as heart disease and cancer. They found the rates of these health problems to be similar to the rates found elsewhere.

They looked at the diets in countries where people live a long life. They found diets in these countries were mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other complex carbohydrates. The humble bean is the cornerstone of the diet.

Popular beans are fava beans in Sardinia, black beans in Costa Rica, lentils in Ikaria (Greece), and soybeans in Okinawa. Seventh-Day Adventists, who are the longest living Americans, eat all kinds of beans.

Experts say diet alone is not the total explanation.

Here is what they think. The social life of the community is a big factor. The people see and talk to each other every day. They give care and support when they are needed. They gather in cafes for coffee in the morning. They meet in the evening for wine.

The long-standing support of the community really matters. Americans who are lonely are likely to die six years earlier than people with strong social networks.

One man summed up the role of a supportive town, “One hand washes the other and they both wash the face.”

The culture makes the right decisions for them. There are few modern gadgets. Activities include walking, and the growing and preparation of food.

Diversions such as work and play do not take away from the family. Older people are secure that their families will take care of them.

An expert said Americans should go from focusing on changing personal behavior to living in supportive surroundings.

He did not say how to do this.

Source: The Wall Street Journal May 22, 2015

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