Misao Okawa will be 115 years old next week. On Tuesday, she got an early birthday present when the Guinness Book of World Records named her the oldest living woman on the planet.
Okawa, the Japanese daughter of a Kimono maker, was born in 1898. She received the impressive title in a ceremony Wednesday, alongside her 3-month-old great grandson, after enjoying her favorite meal of mackerel sushi. Her secret to living a long life?
"Watch out for one's health," she told a reporter after receiving her Guinness certificate. For Okawa that means eating whatever she likes–as long it's made in Japan. With 50,000 living centenarians in Japan, there's evidence that the country's residents hold the secret to longevity: a healthy diet.
Japanese women have one of the longest life spans of any country, only second to those in Hong Kong. The oldest living man (also the oldest living person) is also Japanese. Jiroemon Kimura is 115 years old. "It concentrates the magnificent energy of food into a compact and pleasurable size."
The base of the Japanese diet is vegetables and fish, a great source of omega-3 fats, which are excellent for heart health. Because their meals are largely vegetarian, they eat very little red meat, which can lead to health problems if eaten regularly. The results of a 25-year study of the longest living group of Japanese people, the Okinawans, revealed that their traditional diet of rice, soy, and vegetables could be the reason that, on average, Okinawan women live to be 86 years old.
With all dietary suggestions aside, there is of course a genetic component to aging, meaning Japanese people are less genetically predisposed to certain diseases. A positive and low-stress lifestyle has also shown to lengthen life. The Okinawans don’t have rush hour or alarm clocks, and many meditate daily.
Okawa was born in Osaka 1898. In 1919, she married and had three children with her husband. After his death, she moved back to Osaka. She has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Speaking to a group at her nursing home on making the Guinness Book of World Records, she said, "given everything, it’s pretty good."