Why Latin Americans Live Longer—And How You Can Too

The world’s oldest person is Maria Gomes Valentim, a 114-year-old woman from Brazil, according to the Guinness WorldRecords. She attributes her longevity to her morning cup of coffee with bread and fruit and the occasional glass of wine. The great-great grandmother is at the top of a list of Latin Americans who enjoy long lives thanks to solid diets, low stress and/or access to healthcare. Here are the Spanish-speaking countries (and one mystical village) where age is just a number:

Costa Rica

Life expectancy: 77.72

Known as the “Switzerland of Central America,” Costa Rica not only enjoys stability and peace, but also a nationalized healthcare that everyone can afford. That means Ticos, as locals are called, can take advantage of preventive care to delay the onset of disease. What’s more, their high standard of living, laidback lifestyle and breathtaking landscape (tropical forests, volcanoes, beaches) are the definition of pura vida.


Life expectancy: 77.7

Fidel, who turns 85 in August, is an example of his country’s long life expectancy, which begs the question: Could socialism be the secret to a long life? Most Cubans have a relaxed lifestyle. They don’t have to worry about paying for rent or climbing up the career ladder, whichallows them to take it easy with their families in a low-stress environment. Add to that free healthcare and government-run residence halls for seniors, and Havana doesn’t seem like a bad place to grow old.

Puerto Rico

Life expectancy: 78.92

Puerto Rico may be part of the United States but it’s a world apart. Palm tress, pristine beaches and salsa music have been known to have curative powers. The former two relax the mind, the latter can provide a good workout and all three are great for the soul. No wonder Boricuas age gracefully.


Life expectancy: 81.17

Could sangria have anti-aging properties?We’re not sure about that, but one thing is true: Spaniards know how to live the good life. They eat a healthy Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, veggies, fish and olive oil, which puts them at a low risk for heart disease, and they have a temperate climate with 300 days of sunshine per year. Plus, all those siestas and fiestas are sure to be mood elevators.

Vilacabamba, Ecuador

Life expectancy: 130 (according to residents)

Nicknamed the Valley of Longevity, the Ecuadorean village of Vilcabamba is said to have its own fountain of youth, as residents here reportedly live way past the age of 100. And although there is no scientific proof for their long lives, researchers credit the area’s mineral-rich waters for their great health.