We've come a long way, baby. A recent study found that average world life expectancy has increased by 10.1 years over the last 15 year period. Your first thought on this might be that it's great news, but unfortunately the same study also shows that healthy life expectancy has only increased by 6.1 years over the same 15 year span – essentially people are living a far longer life, but sometimes it's at the expense of their quality of life.
What About Where I Live?
There's a common misconception that those who live in the most developed, affluent countries like the USA and parts of Europe have a higher life expectancy and a better quality of life. After all, they are more likely to have access to improving medical procedures, clean water and a high quality, varied diet. This is all true, but people don't always take advantage of the availability of that food - almost a third of all Americans eat fast food at least once a week, and rates of diabetes are on the rise.
A Culture Of Health
The countries with the highest life expectancy rates (Hong Kong, Japan and Spain) are those where a healthy diet is considered part of the culture, often focusing heavily on vegetables, fresh fish and healthy fats such as olive oil. Fast food outlets are much less common, and where they are available people tend to visit them far less often, preferring instead to cook the healthy staples of their diet at home. They also tend to take advantage of delicious and nutritious local food, like seafood on an island or olive oil in Italy.
Unsurprisingly, processed foods tend to be much unhealthier than their natural alternatives. They generally contain a lot of salt, sugar and high fructose corn syrup, along with artificial additives in order to preserve their shelf life. They often also use a lot of refined carbohydrates, meaning they are a perfect recipe for weight gain and loss of health. The nature of this food means that it can also be addictive – the more sugar and carbs you eat, the more you crave them, in an ever worsening circle. At the opposite end of the scale, the more natural, unprocessed food you eat, the more your taste buds will adapt to it – when you are not regularly eating processed food with high salt and sugar levels then a fresh salad or piece of fruit is a taste explosion!
Not Just About Food
Of course, food has a big impact on living healthier for longer, but it's not the only component of living well. Regular exercise keeps you active and healthy at all stages of life, and getting outside in any weather can improve your mood. Get involved in the local community and hobbies that interest you – those who keep active in mind and body are likely to live more fulfilling lives for longer.
Enjoy The Journey!
Living well is about quality of life as well as length of life. Take advantage of the opportunities of wherever you live and incorporate the best aspects of the countries with the longest life expectancies into your life. Remember, life isn't just about how long you can live, it's about enjoying the journey too!