As my blog article, Italy, Healthiest Country in Europe tells, Italians are already pretty healthy, but there's a lot more to the story...
It's been recently reported that there are over 19,000 Italians over 100 years old today still living La Vita Bella. And apparently, Italians are getting healthier, because the number of centenarians has tripled in the last 15 years. Italy has the second highest life expectancy in the world, too--at 83 years young! According to the World Health Organization, their long life is filled with family and friends around them, a great, healthy Mediterranean diet and beauty all around them. These are not feeble types stuck in an old folks home... many live their own lives in their own homes.
Europe's oldest woman is Emma Moreno, at 116 years old. (Read about Emma HERE). She still lives on her own in Verbania in the Piedmont, is a bit flirty to handsome male visitors and loves to sing. There is also a town called Montemaggiore Belsito in Sicily that has nine people over 100--in a small population of 3500 residents.
There is another town in Campania called Acciaroli where 300 out of a population of 2000 are over 100 years old. (Read about Acciaroli HERE).
Scientists call hotspots for longevity Blue Zones, and one of the most studied is the island of Sardinia. Apparently, Sardinians carry the M26 genetic marker, which is tied to long lives, at rates higher than the general population. Scientist believe that their gene pool has remained "undiluted" mainly because of their isolation--living on an island offers less genetic variety. Sardinia has 10 times more centenarians per capita than in the United States.
The other factor is their lifestyle... traditionally, they grow and harvest much of their own food, hunt and fish, and eat what they catch. The Mediterranean diet affords lots of antioxidants which keeps them heart-healthy. They tend to eat less red meat, more fish and vegetables and drink red wine--yet another source of antioxidants. When they do eat meat it's usually pork, goat or lamb. Their fats are natural--lard and olive oil. The cheese they eat comes from sheep and goats rather than cows, which is much better for overall digestion.
A sedentary lifestyle is unheard of, and in fact, Sardinia's rugged landscape requires hiking to get somewhere--people never merely walk. This heightened activity alone adds to the robust health of these people. They also take afternoon naps, have small breakfasts, large relaxing lunches and moderate suppers. Some Sardinians even claim that their windy environment along with the magnetic rocks that make up the island somehow put energy into their bodies.
In the end, one of the more important factors to increased longevity in Italy might be the relaxed attitude toward life itself. There is less stress perhaps due to the widespread attitude of "domani". Yes, there's always tomorrow. And the tomorrow after that. And the one beyond that one. Italians look at time as a river that flows downstream without stopping. Why fight what you can't stop? Flow with it.
The river of life can be a long one indeed...
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