A Japanese doctor who studied longevity — and lived to 105 — reveals the key to living a long life

A few months ago Japan lost a national treasure. He was the 105-year-old Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara.

Dr. Hinohara made a lion’s contribution to healthcare in Japan, both as a practicing medical doctor and as a physician. He headed five foundations in addition to being the president of St Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo. He was responsible for introducing Japan’s system of comprehensive annual medical check-ups, which have been credited with greatly contributing to the country’s longevity, reports the BBC.

Those are laudable achievements, but it is his longevity and the fact that he saw patients until a few months before his death that defies everything we have come to expect of old age.

You may be wondering: how did he manage to live so long and live those years in a state of good health?

Did he follow a sensible diet? No.

Did he maintain a healthy work/life balance? No.

How about getting ample sleep? No.

Dr Hinohara, who worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, shared some of his thoughts with Judith Kawaguchi in the Japan Times.

Here are the key points:

  • Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot.
  • It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime. We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep.
  • Kawaguchi believes we can keep that attitude as adults, too.
  • If you want to live long, don’t be overweight. “For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”
  • There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. He explained that the current retirement age was set at 65 half a century ago, when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68 years. Today, people live longer, so they can work longer.

There is more, and it may surprise you as it did me. Kawaguchi recommends against taking a doctor’s advice at face value, animal therapies and the need
for liberal and visual arts in healing.

“When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery?

“Music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.

“Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.

“Science alone can’t cure or help people. Science lumps us all together, but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are connected to their hearts. To know the illness and help people, we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.”

Now, there is a lot of food for thought.

“When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery?

“Music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.

“Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.

“Science alone can’t cure or help people. Science lumps us all together, but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are connected to their hearts. To know the illness and help people, we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.”

Now, there is a lot of food for thought.

If you found this article interesting, then I think you’ll love Hack Spirit’s new e-book on mindfulness. We cut through all the jargon and break down exactly what mindfulness is in the modern age and how you can embrace it. Check it out here and let us know what you think.

This article was originally published on Hack Spirit.

NOW WATCH: How to be happy: 5 unconventional tips


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Comments

  1. Sarah J

    I really resonate with what you’re saying. However, it is so very cultural, isn’t it? I was living out in Malawi, East Africa, I’m not joking you – it’s pretty much THE friendliest country EVER. Everyone seems to assist each other, even though they have little, they are smiling, welcoming and will talk to any stranger and make them feel at home (it’s called The Warm Heart of Africa). I was living very rurally and working as a volunteer coordinator for a small NGO and as the after-school English program facilitator. I was giving and serving every day and it was a brilliant time and I did feel so integrally happy, from giving, being given and receiving respect and living a life full of virtue and good values. However, the crash landing back to the UK for me has been vicious – I am a shadow of my former self who arrived back from Malawi a year ago. I am struggling to find how I can be of purpose (applied for SO many jobs, no answers, no income) – from going to someone giving so much and having the ultimate reason to get up in the morning, being unemployed has been so depressing and so very demoralising – thanks BREXIT. I KNOW that volunteering is a good way to get out there again but finanically I just couldn’t do that, after living on a tiny wage in Malawi for years. I also found it hard to connect with humans in the UK – no one smiles at you, they look though you, they seem to mostly live vacuous lives and consumer-fed lifestyles I no longer relate to. I regularly do an experiment ingthe street, where I look people in the eyes and smile RIGHT AT THEM – I’m amazed that they are stony faced and can’t respond to a simple happy face – it’s desperately sad in a way. I have now moved to southern Spain but, again, have yet to meet my tribe, people are still reluctant to connect or be friendly – although I now do have a teaching job so have a reason to get up in the morning and help people achieve their goals. SO I feel I understand all you were saying above, but that outside influences can sometimes wear you right down, where you try and do all the things you know are the recipe for a ‘happy’ life (content is a better word), but the hardness of some people and the world in general is never going to let you have that. Happiness for most is buying the next new whatever. They can’t do that in Malawi.

  2. Ben Green

    Lachlan – I think you need to pay me to edit some of your articles. If you are just reposting, can’t help you but I find that the articles repeat certain aspects too often and there are some spelling issues.

    Regardless, best of luck.

    Ben Green
    Jlbgreen@comcast.net

  3. Linda Carman

    This world would be a much better place if more people lived by these “rules”. Imagine if most people in our societies were happy. Our spaces would radiate with the love and purpose we are longing for. Thank you for this video. At 68, I am generally “happy” but these guidelines helped me to visualize tangible goals that are reachable. I love that it is also very much in line with my Christian values.

  4. Nerma

    It is a freeing and peaceful feeling to not have to pursue happiness but to reach out to help others. Very satisfying.

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