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Countries with best health standards

Last year, Bloomberg Global Health Index evaluated 163 nations on a number of variables including life expectancy, causes of death, health risks such as high blood pressure, and environmental factors to rank the healthiest countries in the world. If wellness travel is on your to-do list for 2018, here are the healthiest destinations, writes Grace Wachira

1. Italy

With a health grade of 93.11 out of 100, Italy came number one. In Italy, babies born expect to live well into their 80s. Bloomberg theorises that the country’s healthy Mediterranean diet may be the key to its longevity, as well as its ‘excess of doctors.’ Their diet is rich in olive oil (Omega 3s) and fish.

The Italians are active like most European countries and also drink moderate amounts of red wine, which research has shown is good for the heart (one glass a day).

2. Iceland

Much has been written about the Northern Lights and Nordic cuisine, and it turns out, both helped bump Iceland toward the top of this list with a health grade of 91.21.

The country’s citizens are active and outdoorsy, and a diet largely of fresh seafood and free-range meat helps keep life expectancy in the 80s for both men and women. (Turns out, there is something to those restorative Blue Lagoon baths, too).

3. Switzerland

The Swiss are in such great shape because they climb mountains just to get in their front door! Not only do they enjoy winter sports in the winter, but the mountains serve equally as a playground for the Swiss in the summer, for hiking and mountaineering.

Unlike American ski areas that turn into ghost towns when the spring snow retreats, the Swiss take full advantage of their mountains every month of the year. It’s no surprise that the country ranks at the top with 90.75 health grade.

4. Singapore

Singapore has a fine system of keeping the environment healthy and clean. By imposing rules and regulations, the hygiene of Singaporeans is the best in the world. Secondly, most Singaporeans comply with rules.

The government is known to promoting clean and healthy environment by education, volunteering, and rules. The world’s most expensive place to live has something else going for it: It’s the healthiest country in Asia with 90.23 health grade, according to the report.

The city-state is better known for its food scene than, say, its workout classes, it has world-class healthcare for reasonable prices.

5. Australia

Because Australia is in the middle of the ocean, importing foods can get expensive. This is why Australians use a lot of natural foods found within their country. In addition, Australians put a lot of emphasis on sports as part of their culture. Most Australians surf, swim, play rugby, hike, or bike. The continent has a health grade of 89.24.

6. Spain

The Spanish food stable is small portions of a variety of foods called Tapas, which means that portion control is a way of life. In addition, they partake in a daily ritual of “siesta”, a two hour nap mid day, which not only lowers stress levels, but also ensure that they are getting enough rest.

Spain’s diet is full of olive oil, fresh vegetables, lean meats, and red wine—and that emphasis on freshness and locality is evident elsewhere: The country eats less fast food than other European countries. Spain health grade is 89.19.

7. Japan

Put simply, the Japanese eat well—they eat fish versus red meat, eat less dairy, butter, and milk, eat seaweed that is high in iodine, drink a lot of green tea, eat plenty of vegetables, and consume small portions.

Thanks to a combination of exercise and diet, the island nation has the oldest population in the world—scientists say one quarter of Japan’s population is older than 65, and the Okinawa prefecture purportedly has the largest population of centenarians in the world.

The Okinawan practice of hara hachi bu—eating until you’re 80 per cent full—has also shown to promote longevity and reduce the prevalence of disease. The country has a health grade of 89.15.

8. Sweden

Like in most of the healthiest countries, Sweden has universal health coverage, with patient fees covering only a very small percentage of health costs. With a diet that’s low in carbs and high in the right kind of fats, Swedes are second among Nordic countries in terms of life expectancy.

Moving to the country of fikas and saunas? Be prepared to get out and about: According to a 2013 survey from the European Commission, Sweden is where the largest number of people exercise regularly.

9. Israel

With a health grade of 88.14, Israel was the highest ranked country in the Middle East. Israel has a diet rich in vegetables, fish, and unsaturated fat, which pays off.

10. Luxembourg

This small country—positioned between Belgium, France, and Germany—doesn’t necessarily have the cuisine dietitians dream of (think a lot of cheese, meat, and potatoes), but draws points for its health care system, promotion of physical activity in schools and in public, and public centres such as Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). What’s Luxembourgish known for “Where’s the closest gym?” It has a health grade of 87.87.

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