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Deep within the Aegean sea, 35 miles off the coast of Turkey lies the Greek island of Ikaria. People are three times more likely to reach age 90 than in the U.S.
Similar to the island of Sardinia, Ikaria was the subject of repeated invasions by the Persians, Romans and Turks, causing the population to move away from the sea to the central area of the island. This created an isolated population, rich in tradition, family values, health and long life. Ikaria is also famous for its mineral thermal hot springs, which reportedly have numerous therapeutic benefits.
Chronic diseases are a rarity in Ikaria. People living in this region have 20% less cancer, half the rate of cardiovascular disease, and almost no dementia! People traditionally have farming or fishing jobs and live in a mountainous terrain, which keep them active throughout life. They eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, whole grains, fruit and a little fish. Goat milk and wine are also traditional here and loaded with antioxidants. Time is taken out of their day to nap and connect with friends, reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
Lessons From Ikaria
- Get your antioxidants! Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, which consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a little fish. One key feature of the Ikarian diet are wild greens, many of which have ten times the level of antioxidants in green tea or red wine!
- Drink tea! Regular herbal tea consumption is common of Ikarian centenarians. Many of the teas here act as mild diuretics, prescribed by doctors to lower blood pressure.
- Take regular naps. People who nap at least five times a week for half an hour have 35% reduced chance of cardiovascular disease. Stress hormones also decrease when you’re napping.
- Make walking part of your daily routine. The hilly land lends itself well to burning calories. The Ikarians exercise without thinking about it just by walking to church or work.