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Malaysia’s 93-year-old prime minister tells the simple secret to his long life

Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad is 93-years-old
How Hwee Young/Pool via Reuters
Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad speaking on a visit to China this summer.
By Max de Haldevang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The world’s oldest leader, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, discussed his efforts to haul his country out of his predecessor’s crippling corruption scandal at a UN side event yesterday.

But the secret to his fine health at 93 was what grabbed moderator Fareed Zakaria’s attention.

“Frankly, the idea that Mahathir could travel to New York at, whatever, 91-years-old is surprising,” said Zakaria, commenting on the prime minister’s late arrival to the panel. “We’ll give him a little time to get to the hall—I think he’s stuck in traffic.”

“I first interviewed prime minister Mahathir 20 years ago when he was a spry man of 70,” continued Zakaria, who is a CNN host.

Eventually, he asked Mahathir his secret. “I don’t really know,” responded Mahathir. “I do keep to a strict diet. I don’t overeat. I do quite a lot of exercise and I have six hours of sleep. I think [if] you live a fairly well regulated life, you will survive. But if you get some disease which is incurable, there’s nothing you can do.”

The nonagenarian served as Malaysia’s leader for 22 years starting in 1981. He returned to power this year when Malaysia’s opposition parties sought a consensus candidate to oust Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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