Our Desk | To feel good

Renato Marques

A couple of days ago I bumped into an old report that matched perfectly with what my feelings were on the previous days. The story is rooted in an interview that a well known Japanese physician, educator and author gave to Japan Times back in 2009. It had resurfaced and placed under the spotlight due to the death of the interviewee, Shigeaki Hinohara, last month, at the age of 105.

The question I am trying to address briefly here is: What have we learned from Hinohara-san?

For those who have never heard of him, he was one of the world’s most longest-serving physicians and educators, almost a legend to his patients who considered his medicinal skills as almost touching the field of magic.

He was a longevity expert who had been working since 1941 at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo and taught at St. Luke’s College of Nursing.

After World War II, he envisioned a world-class hospital and college rising from the ruins of Tokyo, and with his pioneering spirit he created these places in Japan as the country’s top institutions.

What is so special about this man? It may be the fact that he contradicted all that we commonly praise and take for granted regarding healthy living.

In one of the most famous quotes, Hinohara said, “Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot,” adding, “We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.”

This is the “secret” according to this longevity expert – To Feel Good – as simple as that.

In the same interview, the physician elaborated and painted a clearer picture for all of us based on his extremely long studies and research.
“All people who live long – regardless of nationality, race or gender – share one thing in common: None are overweight. For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”

Another of the secrets according to Hinohara is to plan ahead. In the interview, he revealed some of his plans for the future. “My schedule book is already full until 2014 (5 years ahead), with lectures and my usual hospital work. In 2016 (7 years ahead) I’ll have some fun, though: I plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics,” he said, and he did.

One of the factors he considers killers of longevity is “early retirements” as he also strongly disagrees with a “retirement age.”

“It should be a lot later than 65. The current retirement age was set half a century ago, when the average life expectancy was 68 years. Today women live to be around 86 and men 80.”

Hirohara left a few more pieces of advice. “To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.” In addition, “when a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that to his or her spouse or children. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.”

In the meanwhile, an annual survey conducted in Macau shows that “happiness” levels have been unstable and falling in the past five to six years mostly due to housing and consumer price dissatisfaction. Is there any way we can feel good about them?

Categories Opinion