What We Can Learn About Longevity From The World's Oldest Person

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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The world's oldest living person just turned 117. Her name is Kane Tanaka, and she's from southern Japan.

How exactly does someone live to be a centenarian, let alone 117 years old? According to the South China Morning Post, Tanaka is an early riser, waking up at 6 a.m. She also enjoys studying math to this day.

But to gain a greater understanding of how she's lived to be the oldest person alive, we're looking at where she's from: Fukuoka, Japan.

Taking a lesson from Japan.

Fukuoka is a city in the south of Japan, well known for the longevity of its residents. Japan is one of the healthiest countries on the planet, with its clean diet and well-rounded lifestyle. Okinawa, Japan, has even earned the title of one of the world's original five Blue Zones.

So-named by multiple New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner, "Blue Zones" are the places in the world where people live the longest and healthiest. And although Fukuoka isn't quite Okinawa, the Japanese lifestyle as a whole can teach us a lot about aging.

From the cuisine to the culture, it's no wonder this country is home to the oldest woman alive.

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Japan's keys to longevity.

For starters, the Japanese diet is excellent for aging, as it's low in calories but high in nutrients. Miso, for example, is a fermented powerhouse with gut-healing abilities—and we know gut health has been linked with longevity.

The Japanese style of eating, called Washoku, is characterized by plenty of locally sourced, natural ingredients like seafood, vegetables, and rice. Washoku also emphasizes connection to the land, with many Japanese people still gardening to this day (which is like a workout in itself). But diet isn't the only noteworthy thing about Japanese culture tied with longevity.

The themes of purpose and connection are prevalent within the culture, too. Moai in Japanese means "a group of lifelong friends" or a "social support group that forms in order to provide varying support from social, financial, health, or spiritual interests." We know loneliness can actually cause inflammation and potentially take years off your life, but with a "moai" at your side, that's much less of a concern.

And not only that, but ikigai, which roughly translates to "reason for being," highlights the importance of living a life of purpose (which is—you guessed it—also linked with longevity).

There may be no sure formula for living to 100 and beyond, but one thing is evident: Certain cultures are definitely onto something through a combination of healthy eating, strong relationships, active lifestyles, and living on purpose.

For healthy Japanese cooking inspo, check out Washoku: Recipes From the Japanese Home Kitchen, along with our crash course on how to eat, move, and live for longevity.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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