Spain's oldest woman celebrated her 115th birthday at a nursing home in Barcelona last October.
Ana María Vela, 115, is Spain's oldest resident. Photo: La Verneda Nursing Home
According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), there were just 5,760 or 0.8 percent of Spain's population who could celebrate their hundredth birthday in the year 2000.
But that figure has soared and there are currently 14,487 people over the age of 100 living in Spain, more than eighty percent of them women.
The number is expected to rise by around 10 per cent a year meaning that by 2029 that figure is expected to rise to include more than 46,480 people and by 2064 Spain is predicted to be home to some 372,000 centenarians.
Ana María Vela, who was born in Cordoba on October 29th, 1901, holds the title of Spain’s oldest woman, while Francisco Núñez at 112, is the oldest man in Spain and is in the running to claim the oldest man in the world Guinness World Record title.
In fact, Spain ranks second in the world behind only Japan for life expectancy, with life expectancy for babies born in Spain at 83.2 years.
But what is it about Spain that still makes its residents live so long? The Local takes a look.
1. The diet
People eating tapas in Madrid. Photo: Gerard Julien /AFP.
Previous studies have praised the positive health effects of a Mediterranean diet, with one report in 2013 showing that it can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent.
Still, according to the latest OECD report, Spaniards could probably improve upon their fruit and veggie consumption. Spain was just above the OECD average of 60 percent of adults saying they ate fruit daily.
2. Healthy hearts
Image: Bryan Brandenburg / Wikimedia Commons.
Spaniards have one of the lowest mortality rates for heart disease, behind Portugal, the Netherlands, South Korea, France and Japan.
Part of this could be the drop in the number of people who smoke daily – a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease – which is down from 32 percent of adults in 2000 to 24 percent in 2013. Still, this rate is higher than the OECD average of 20 percent.
3. Low rates of suicide
Spain has the sixth lowest rate of suicide among OECD countries, behind Israel, Italy, Mexico, Greece and Turkey at the lowest.
Spain also has one of the lowest rates of inpatient suicide, behind just the Czech Republic, which can be an indicator for how well patients with psychiatric disorders are taken care of.
Photo: Valdavia / Wikimedia Commons.
OK, this one is a bit controversial in light of the World Health Organization’s recent report that placed cured meats like jamón in league with cigarettes for cancer risk.
But others say that because the meat is rich in oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil, jamón actually helps regulate cholesterol. And as The Local found in the below video, there are certainly many Spaniards who will insist that it is the ham that keeps them “fit” and long-living.
5. Health care
Photo: Gerard Julien / AFP.
This put Spain at the top of the OECD charts, along with the Netherlands and Austria.
Spain is also rated highly for its diabetes care, with one of the lowest rates of avoidable hospital admissions, behind just Italy and Switzerland
6. Red wine
Photo: Family photo
One of Spain's oldest residents, who died in January at the age of 107, insisted that it was in fact his daily dose of homemade red wine that kept him in good health.
Antonio Docampo García from Vigo could drink a litre and a half of red wine at lunch time and the same again at dinner, according to his son.