Ikaria, Greece

Longevity is a virtue that many pursue but few finally possess. Our contemporary era directs that healthy food combined with modest exercise and reduced stress is the way to add years to life expectancy. But it seems that instead of searching for low-fat food and organic vegetables in a supermarket or resorting to gyms to burn calories, the people of Ikaria island in the Aegean sea have fully grasped the meaning of leading a healthy and happy life, often exceeding a century.

According to researchers the factors contributing to the unusual longevity on the island are not that complicated. They include social interaction with friends for some chitchat and a glass of wine, a lack of stress, a slow tempo during the day and a siesta after lunch, strong family bonds, exercise by walking on the rough hills or tending the olive groves, and of course the Mediterranean diet so common in places like Ikaria that have been left behind by so-called progress and development. It is one of those rare places where everything worked together to produce a remarkable result.

According to the National Statistical Agency, while only 0.1 percent of the population in Europe reach 90 years of age, in Ikaria this percentage goes up by ten fold. There are stories of people who suffered from serious diseases who went to stay in Ikaria and their illnesses subsided. The New York Times presented the case of a Greek aged man who moved to the U.S. after the war and was diagnosed with lung cancer in his mid 60’s. So he decided to get back to Ikaria to make the most of his remaining time. But years passed and he gradually started to feel better and he is still alive and kicking at the age of 97 with no symptoms of his disease.

A Walk on Ikaria, by John Whittle

Olive oil is the basis of the Mediterranean regime and it is considered to be the healthiest oil of all. It is always interesting to keep track of the various research outcomes about different foods that are good or bad for people’s health. One day red meat is good, the next day it’s bad. One day wine is good, the next it’s bad. Olive oil, on the other hand, has undergone extensive research and testing and has proved it to be undisputedly beneficial in many aspects of life and the human body.

Fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish and olive oil combined with the special conditions of Ikaria enable its inhabitants to grow old enough to enjoy playing with their great grand-grandchildren. For the rest of us, a Mediterranean-styled nutrition could sometimes mean an invaluable payback by expanding our life span, but in all cases it means a healthier and more natural way of life.

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