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Japanese are leaders in life expectancy; 116-year-old credits sushi

With Sunday's death in New York City of 111-year-old Alexander Imich, Japan this week inherits the mantle of being home to both the world's oldest man and oldest woman.

The densely populated and industrialized island nation also hosts half of the 40 known "supercentenarians" on the planet -- those who have reached 110 years or more.

Japan has been building on life expectancy with each annual report of the World Health Organization. Japanese women bumped up their demographic by another year in the May 15 WHO report, which showed the average Japanese woman lives to 87 years. Japanese men rank eighth in their gender by country but still live to 80 on average, preserving the global No. 1 spot for the country's overall life expectancy, a position it has held for 20 years, according to WHO.

Misao Okawa, at 116, is the world's oldest person, according to Guinness World Records. The Osaka retirement home resident who was widowed 83 years ago told the Daily Telegraph on her latest birthday on March 5 that the key to a long life is lots of sushi and shut-eye.

"Eat and sleep and you will live a long time," Okawa told the newspaper, citing her favorite meal as mackerel and vinegar-steamed rice. "You have to learn to relax."

With Polish-born Imich's death on Sunday, retired chemistry teacher Sakari Momoi of Saitama becomes the world's oldest man, the Japan Times reported. He was born just one day later than Imich, Feb. 5, 1903.

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