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The World’s Oldest Person Is 119—And Her Secret Has Nothing To Do With Diet or Exercise

Photo: Stocksy/Bo Bo
Sometimes, the quest for living a healthy life can distract from what's most important: enjoying it. It's a reminder that comes straight from the world's oldest living person, a spritely 119-year-old woman living in Fukuoka, Japan, named Kane Tanaka.

When asked about the secret to her longevity, Tanaka didn't mention a dedicated workout routine or a specific eating plan. In fact, Tanaka has enjoyed so much Coke throughout her life that the Coca-Cola company gifted her with two personalized bottles of her beloved beverage on her 119th birthday, which her great-granddaughter Junko Tanaka shared on Twitter. The caption reads: "Birthday gift 1: Introducing the presents received for Kane's birthday. Really appreciate this gift. Coca-Cola company made a commemorative birthday bottle. It seems (Kane) is still drinking Coca-Cola as usual."

So, what has kept Tanaka inspired and motivated far past 100 years of age? According to her grandson, Eiji Tanaka, it's not dwelling on the past, and instead focusing on the present moment. "I don't remember her talking much about the past," he told CNN. "She's very forward thinking—she really enjoys living in the present." Her family has also shared that said she keeps her mind and body engaged by doing math, calligraphy, and remaining curious. In fact, she worked in her family's store until she was 103 years old.

The link between health, purpose, and happiness is well-established. In fact, four of the nine longevity pillars (qualities people who live in Blue Zones, where inhabitants regularly live to reach 100) have nothing to do with diet or exercise. Longevity is granted to those who find purpose in life, manage stress, engage with a community, and remain close to family.

"Purpose is related to happiness, and happiness is associated with better health than sadness or indifference,” says Richard Honaker, MD, chief medical advisor at Your Doctors Online. When looking at Tanaka's life, it has long been full of purpose—and she continues to learn, spend time with those she loves, and grown her own mental strength and curiosity every day.

All of this syncs up with intel from The Human Longevity Project, a nine-part documentary series featuring locals of the longest-living and healthiest populations on the planet in addition to experts, healers, and doctors. Some of the major takeaways from this project include that working hard, fostering meaningful connections, and minimizing stress all are linked to living a long, healthy life.

Another way to bring happiness, backed by science: friendship. One study found that having good friends is part of the connection between health and happiness. You don't need a lot of friends, but rather just a few reliable people in your life who make you smile.

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