The Nicoya region of Costa Rica: a high longevity island for elderly males

Vienna Yearb Popul Res. 2013;11:109-136. doi: 10.1553/populationyearbook2013s109.

Abstract

Reliable data show that the Nicoyan region of Costa Rica is a hot spot of high longevity. A survival follow-up of 16,300 elderly Costa Ricans estimated a Nicoya death rate ratio (DRR) for males 1990-2011 of 0.80 (0.69-0.93 CI). For a 60-year-old Nicoyan male, the probability of becoming centenarian is seven times that of a Japanese male, and his life expectancy is 2.2 years greater. This Nicoya advantage does not occur in females, is independent of socio-economic conditions, disappears in out-migrants and comes from lower cardiovascular (CV) mortality (DRR = 0.65). Nicoyans have lower levels of biomarkers of CV risk; they are also leaner, taller and suffer fewer disabilities. Two markers of ageing and stress-telomere length and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate-are also more favourable. The Nicoya diet is prosaic and abundant in traditional foods like rice, beans and animal protein, with low glycemic index and high fibre content.