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Healthy Aging Across the Globe

When you think of healthy living, which countries cross your mind? For me, I instantly think of the Scandinavian countries for their clean fresh air and self-care regimens or Italy for its well-known longer lifespan. It’s no surprise that people across the globe live far different lifestyles than we do here in America but, what exactly is it that makes these countries masters of healthy aging? We’ll cover it all in this week’s blog post and hopefully give you a bit of encouragement that healthy aging, isn’t really as complex as it may seem.

This blog post came to mind after watching episode 4 of the new Netflix series, Down to Earth (yes, the one with Zac Efron). In this episode, Zac and Darin travel to the island of Sardinia, Italy while also visiting the Village of Seulo and the Village of Aritzo. Italy is known for its notable number of centenarians and this episode uncovers what lifestyle differences contribute to this incredible statistic. Believe it or not, a few walks per day and a high carb/low protein and non-GMO diet with little stress is believed to be the secret to the Italian’s long lifespans. After learning about Sardina, my wheels were spinning, and I wondered what other counties are doing differently that we are failing to do as Americans. Here’s a list of the top 10 healthiest countries in the world and the characteristics that make them unique.

1. Spain

Spain is ranked the healthiest country in the world and you won’t believe why. Citizens in Spain put an emphasis on freshness and locality when it comes to cuisine, with diets focused on olive oil, fresh vegetables, lean meats, and red wine. The Spanish eat little fast food and believe you can’t discount the value of a good siesta. Fresh food, wine, and napping- that’s the secret to healthy aging in Spain!

2. Italy

The land of pizza and pasta is known for its long life expectancy. Italians lead active lifestyles and stick to vegetables and olive oil-rich diets which has led to better cholesterol and overall wellbeing.

3. Iceland

Iceland’s citizens are active and outdoorsy. Their diet consists largly of fresh seafood and free-range meat all of which contribute to a life expectancy well into their 80’s for both men and women. Maybe the Blue Lagoon baths contribute to their healthy lifestyles too?

4. Japan

One-third of Japan’s populating is older than 65 and Okinawa purportedly has the largest population of centenarians in the world. The Okinawan practice of Hara Hachi Bu (eating until you’re 80 percent full) has shown to promote longevity and reduce the prevalence of disease. Question is, how do I know what 80% full feels like?

5. Switzerland

Switzerland has the world’s best health care system and also some of the world’s healthiest individuals. Similar to the above countries, the Swiss have one of the highest average life expectancies at a whopping 84 years (that’s over 10 years longer than Americans). Key factors to their healthy lifestyles include clean water, high work-life balance, and an active lifestyle full of the world’s best alpine skiing.

6. Sweden

Known for their fresh clean air, water, and beautiful mountain views, the Swedes prioritize their daily long walks, enjoy cycling regularly, and have the best work-life balance in the world. Unlike the Italians, Swedes have a diet low in carbs and high in the right kind of fats.

7. Australia

This one was the biggest surprise for me. When I think Australians, I think unhealthy Americans with a cool accent. Turns out they’re healthy too! Locally sourced food isn’t a trend here, it’s a way of life. Australians also enjoy getting outdoors and soaking in the beauty of their country with an active lifestyle.

8. Singapore

As one of the healthiest countries in Asia, Singapore residents balance their love of hawker food with active lifestyles. The Singaporean government even handed out free Fitbits to its citizens in 2019! Similar to Switzerland, Singapore also has one of the world’s best healthcare systems but unlike other countries on this list, Singaporeans are busy workers with a lower work-life balance.

9. Norway

Back to the Scandinavians! Norway is incredibly beautiful and I wonder if this contributes to its ranking on this list. Similar to Sweden, Norway has clean air and water along with one of the highest life expectancies of 83 years.

10. Israel

With a diet rich in vegetables, fish, and unsaturated fats, Israel rounds off this list of the top ten healthiest countries in the world. Israel has the lowest number of diet-related deaths (high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, etc.) in the world. Unlike many countries across the globe, Israelis actually improve their diet with age, with adults in their 50’s and 60’s consuming the healthiest diets.

In summary, living a long healthy life is much easier than we all may think. It’s not about fad diets, supplements, or making it to your Soulcycle class 5 times a week. Instead, it’s taking daily long relaxing walks, unwinding and taking a nap when needed, and eating a diet full of healthy fats, carbs, and vegetables. Easy enough, right? Let’s all learn from the above 10 countries and live long healthy lives enjoying the things and people we love.

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