It's a scary and sad fact that getting old often takes a toll on your mind. And as the scary and sad movie Still Alice reminds us, you don't really even have to get that old to start losing your lucidity. But your golden years don't have to be a downward spiral, as the world's oldest person, Misao Okawa, shows. Approaching her 117th birthday on Thursday, Okawa celebrated on Wednesday with friends, family, and government officials on Wednesday at her nursing home in Japan. Her words of wisdom are probably even more awe-inspiring than her age: when asked about the secret to her long life, Okawa responded, "I wonder about that too."
The laughs didn't stop there at Okawa's birthday celebration. According to the Associated Press, Osaka government official Takehiro Ogura brought the birthday girl a huge bouquet of flowers. Ogura asked her how it felt to have lived for 117 years. Her response?
It seemed rather short.
Okawa was born on March 5, 1898, and she is the oldest person alive today — she was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in June 2013, after the death of 116-year-old Jiroemon Kimura, a Japanese man. She hasn't shied away from activity as a supercentenarian either — she was observed doing squats as recently as 14 years ago, at age 102.
So what are the secrets to a (very) long life? Even though she says now that she's not sure, Okawa told The Telegraph last year that she owes her longevity to two simple lifestyle choices that many millennials would probably be happy to adapt: sushi and sleep. How healthy are these choices, really?
Eating Lots of Sushi
Everyone loves sushi, the world's most delicious and beautiful finger food. And Okawa is right about its health benefits — especially if you get it fresh and in Japan, like she does. Salmon and tuna, both popular sushi selections, are high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins. Avocado, a key ingredient to a good vegetable roll, is a great source of healthy fats, and if you get yours made with brown rice, that's an extra dose of fiber. The only kind of sushi that probably won't help extend your life is the candy kind, though it is delicious.
According to Tomohito Okada, the head of the Kurenai nursing home where she lives, Okawa prefers her sushi with mackerel and vinegar-steamed rice.
Getting Lots of Sleep
Okawa is right again about the great effects of sleep on your body and mind. Research shows sleep cleanses your brain of toxins and restores your mind. And in addition to keeping you alive and keeping your brain in fighting shape, sleep makes you creative, happy, and good at sex. And there really is research to back up Okawa's claim — women who get less sleep die younger.
Learning How to Relax
In 2014, Okawa told The Daily Telegraph, "Eat and sleep and you will live a long time. You have to learn to relax." Indeed, relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and music therapy can help slow your heart rate, increase blood flow to major muscles, and lower your blood pressure.
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