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HEALTH

World’s oldest man dies aged 113 in Spanish village where he lived his whole life

The world's oldest man, a Spaniard from a village near Badajoz, has died at the grand old age of 113.

World's oldest man dies aged 113 in Spanish village where he lived his whole life
Marchena lived to the ripe old age of 113. Photo: http://gerontology.wikia.com/

Francisco Núñez Olivera died on Monday morning.

He born on December 13th 1904 in the village of Bienvenida in Badajoz, in the region of Extremadura, western Spain.

Francisco – known as Marchena – fathered four children, nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. He became the world's oldest man in August on the death of Yisrael Kristal, a holocaust survivor who lived to the age of 113 years and 330 days.

He had been a widower since 1988 and his two sons have died but he lives with his eldest daughter, María Antonia, 81, and near his other daughter Milagros, 78.

He spent his last birthday when he turned 113 with Maria Antonia where he started the day with cake for breakfast and then read birthday cards sent to him from around the world.

READ MORE: World's oldest man celebrates 113th birthday in Extremadura

“He will be missed by everyone,” said Antonio Carmona, the mayor of Bienvenida, the town where Marchena lived his whole life.

 He will be buried on Tuesday and will be given an official sent off in the town where a day of mourning has been declared.

READ: Want to know the secret to long life? Live in Spain

He put his longevity down to “good genes”, “hard work” and a varied diet of homegrown vegetables. He also enjoys a daily glass of red wine.

His brother Luis, who lives in Asturias, is 95 and his sister Jacoba, who also lives in Bienvenida, is 93.

“I worked in the fields all my life,” he told El Mundo last year.

His ID says he was born on September 13th 1904 but his daughter says he is actually three months younger and was born on December 13th.

He was ten years old when the First World War broke out and in the 1920s he fought against the Berbers in Morocco during the Rif War between Spain and its North African neighbour. 

His secret to such a long life, he said was “to work hard. To not be weak and stay in the house.”

His daughter added a few more reasons as to why her father may have lived such a long life, including “a gentle routine in a quiet village, being his own boss, not arguing with the family and enjoying the good life – that revolved around the field, his house and the village bar.”

He also had a varied diet despite not having had his own teeth for four decades, she explained.

His daily food consisted of milk and madeleines (a light sponge cake) for breakfast with an Actimel. Meat, fish or stew for lunch, yoghurt for an afternoon snack and special cereal with milk for dinner.

Speaking last year he said he had enjoyed good health until he needed a kidney removed when he was 90, a cataract operation aged 98 and was hospitalized for a urinary infection when he was 108. He claims to have never broken a bone and to have perfect blood pressure.

While Francisco had the records to prove his age, they are not the originals – which were burned during the Spanish Civil War.

Spaniards have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, which is often attributed to the Mediterranean diet and traditional slower pace of life. 

READ MORE: Six Spanish secrets on how to live to the age of one hundred

Spain is also home to Europe's oldest woman, Ana Vela Rubio, who celebrated her 116th birthday in October.

But one Spaniard who lived to the ripe old age of 107 did so on a diet that consisted mainly of… red wine. 

The world's oldest human is currently Nabi Tajima of Japan who was born on Aug. 4, 1900 and is currently 117 years old.

HEALTH

How Spain could stamp out smoking

A fifth of Spain's population smokes on a daily basis. With such high numbers, here's how the country's pulmonologists propose to get smokers to quit.

Spain plans to get people to quit smoking
How Spain plans to get people to stop smoking. Photo: Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP

For many outsiders, Spain is a nation of smokers. 

The stats from Spain’s Ministry of Health show that 23.3 percent of men smoke every day in Spain, compared with 16.4 percent of women.

For both males and females, the highest number of smokers are aged between 25 and 34, meaning that it’s the younger population who are smoking slightly more than the older generations. 

Spain’s pulmonologists are now pushing for the country’s tobacco laws to be tightened, claiming that reform is needed after the last legislation was approved a decade ago.

READ ALSO: Spain warns against smoking and vaping in public to avoid Covid infections

Why is smoking such a problem in Spain and what is being done about it?

The latest stats from the Spanish Ministry of Health show that lung cancer, often caused by smoking, is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in Spain, with 29,549 cases diagnosed so far in 2021.

Given these high figures Spain’s Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) has proposed five measures to help get people to stop smoking.

SEPAR points out that every time anti-smoking legislation is reformed and things for smokers made more difficult, the prevalence of smoking decreases.  

Smoking on terraces was banned in some regions during the pandemic. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
  • Price of tobacco to rise in 2022

The first point on their list is to raise the price of tobacco, which must cover all forms, from cigarettes to cigars, through to rolling tobacco, and electronic cigarettes.  

This first measure may soon become a reality as the Spanish government has already predicted that the price of tobacco will rise in 2022, after several years of stagnation.  

It is expected that tobacco will be responsible for almost a third of all special taxes received in 2022, equating to €21.8 billion.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “cheap tobacco” in Spain guarantees “a percentage of smokers above 30 percent”.

In Spain, the price of a pack of tobacco is around €5, which is much cheaper than in other countries. In Australia for example, a pack of tobacco costs around €22, and in the United Kingdom and France, each pack of tobacco costs around €12.4 and €10.5, respectively.

According to Dr. Carlos A. Jiménez Ruiz, pulmonologist and president of the society, the current anti-smoking law has “some deficiencies” that need to be addressed in order to develop legislation that is more effective and efficient, especially with regard to the prevention of tobacco consumption in young people, but also in helping smokers to stop smoking and in protecting the health of non-smokers. 

READ ALSO – Maps: Which beaches in Spain have banned smoking?

Besides increasing the cost of tobacco SEPAR proposes four other measures to get Spain to quit smoking. These include:

  • Banning the consumption of tobacco in public spaces, even outdoors
    During the pandemic, several regions approved a regulation to prohibit smoking on terraces. SEPAR proposes that smoking be prohibited not only in spaces such as terraces but also in sports stadiums, beaches, parks and bullrings, and that fines should be imposed for those who do not comply.

  • Establish generic packaging
    SEPAR also wants Spain to introduce generic packaging, which means no logos and images of the tobacco companies. This measure has also proven to lower the sales of tobacco in countries where it has been implemented, such as Australia and New Zealand. According to the latest statistics from the Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey around 11.6 percent of adults in Australia smoke daily. 

  • The regulation of other smoking devices
    Despite the fact that all products that burn tobacco such as cigarettes are already regulated, SEPAR believes that it is also necessary to regulate the sale, consumption and advertising of electronic cigarettes. This is because e-cigarettes have become particularly popular among young people. 

  • Promote help for those seeking to quit smoking
    The last proposal is the creation and development of special units in public health departments to help people to stop smoking and to put more funds towards these programmes. 

How does Spain compare with other European countries when it comes to smoking?

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), while Spain does have a high number of smokers there are still several European countries that have more. The European countries with the highest number of smokers are Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary.

The latest European survey from 2020 shows that 42 percent of Greeks claim to be smokers, which is only slightly above Spain. 

On the other side, the European countries with the lowest number of smokers are mainly Nordic countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Norway.

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