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HEALTH

Why do people from this Spanish region live longer than all other Europeans?

Spaniards are predicted to have the longest life expectancy in the world by 2040, but there’s one Spanish region in particular where people just keep living longer.

Why do people from this Spanish region live longer than all other Europeans?
Photo: Bafomet-Jaén/Flickr

Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, has the population with the highest life expectancy in not only the country, but in Europe.

According to figures from Spain’s national stats agency INE, Galician men currently live on average to an age of 83 years and 4 months and Galician women to 86 years and 4 months.

In fact, it’s estimated that in the last decade Galicia’s 2.7 million inhabitants have gained an average 2 years and 4 months of life, and 3 years and 3 months over the last 20 years.

That means that Galicians are currently only surpassed in the longevity tables by the Japanese, whose average age hovers just under the 84-year mark.

With a projected average lifespan of nearly 85.8 years in 20 years, Spaniards as a whole are expected to outlive all other nations by 2040.

Experts forecast Galicia will beat all other Spanish autonomous communities in the life expectancy rankings when that day comes. 

Photo: Instituto Siglo XXI/Flickr

So what is it about this unique region with a distinctive culture from the rest of Spain that helps its residents live longer?

Well, it certainly isn’t thanks to the weather. Galicia is the region of Europe where it rains most often, its protruding geographical location meaning it gets more rainfall than anywhere in the UK or north-western regions of France such as Normandy or Brittany.

The chief reason for Galicians’ longevity is their diet, but not the Mediterranean one commonly associated with Spain, Italy and France; the lesser-known Atlantic one.

The Atlantic diet is largely composed of seasonal, locally sourced, fresh and minimally processed produce.

In terms of how it compares to the Mediterranean diet, food preparation favours stewing over frying and pig products such as cold meats (embutidos) are not as prevalent as in other parts of Spain’s local cuisines. Instead the staple food is fish and seafood.

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“Atlantic cuisine has an abundance of vegetables, fruit, fish, shellfish and olive oil, even the veal comes from cows reared in freedom”, Felipe F. Casanueva, professor of medicine at the University of Santiago de Compostela, told Spanish daily El Español.

For Casanueva there's no doubt that the Atlantic diet is the main reason Galicians live on average a year longer than their Andalusian counterparts in the south of Spain, but he admits that “in Galicia we’ve been more concerned about eating Atlantic-style cuisine than promoting it or studying it”.


 Photo: Santi Villamarín/Flickr

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HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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