Recently I’ve been finding out why people live such long, healthy lives on the Greek Island of Ikaria and the Japanese island of Okinawa. This month I’m looking at the tiny country of Andorra, nestled between France and Spain.
According to several sources (although Wikipedia claims otherwise), Andorra has the highest life expectancy of any country in the world. I visited Andorra on holiday last year, so I know a little about the place, and I have an idea why this might be so. In a word, mountains. Andorra’s full of mountains, and that means lots of walking up and down. Even visiting your next door neighbour involves a significant change of altitude. All that climbing must keep you very fit.
Anyway, in the spirit of scientific enquiry I’ve undertaken some comprehensive research (i.e. browsing some websites) and have prepared a list of rules for achieving longevity, Andorran style.
Instead of my usual list of 10 easy rules plus 10 hard rules, I can find just 13 rules that govern the Andorran way of life, and none of them are particularly difficult to adopt:
1. Live in a small mountain kingdom at high altitude.
2. Walk up and down mountains a lot every day.
3. Work and stay physically active into old age.
4. Don’t pay any taxes.
5. Don’t have any wars for more than 700 years.
6. Eat mostly lean meat, rye bread, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and a small amount of fish.
7. Don’t eat much dairy.
8. Drink a couple of cups of coffee each day.
9. Drink a lot of red wine. Per capita wine consumption in Andorra is one of the highest in the world although not as high as the Vatican!
10. Smoke. Traditionally the tobacco industry was Andorra’s main industry. But this probably isn’t such a good rule to follow. In fact, you should definitely ignore it.
11. Own a (tiny) garden for growing your own vegetables.
12. Collect wild food, especially mushrooms.
13. Uphold traditional values (including strong family groupings and hard work, but also sexism, racism, religious intolerance, an entrenched class system, lack of social mobility and nepotism).
Some of these rules are quite different to my previous studies of longevity on Ikaria and Okinawa. I’m going to examine a few more locations that have unusually long-lived and healthy populations and then try to draw some conclusions. But already you should be able to see that hard physical work and a diet containing a lot of fruit and vegetables are common themes.