Discover Ikaria, the Greek Island With the Oldest Life Expectancy in the World

Boil­er­plate human inter­est sto­ries about the habits of par­tic­u­lar­ly spry cen­te­nar­i­ans just don’t cut it any­more. Liv­ing a long, healthy, and hap­py life, we know, involves more than mak­ing the right indi­vid­ual choic­es. It means liv­ing in soci­eties that make good choic­es read­i­ly avail­able and sup­port the indi­vid­u­als mak­ing them. Nutri­tion research has borne this out — just scan the lat­est pop­u­lar food book titles for the word “Mediter­ranean,” for exam­ple, or input the same search term in an aca­d­e­m­ic data­base, and you’ll pull up hun­dreds of results. Even fad diets have shift­ed from pro­mot­ing indi­vid­ual celebri­ties to cel­e­brat­ing whole regions.

Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied a hand­ful of places around the world, in fact, where diet and oth­er ordi­nary lifestyle and social fac­tors have led to the out­comes gov­ern­ments spend bil­lions try­ing, and fail­ing, to achieve. One of these regions is — yes — square­ly in the Mediter­ranean, the Greek island of Ikaria, “named one of the health­i­est places on earth,” writes Greek City Times, “a spot of excep­tion­al longevi­ty. Here, there are more healthy peo­ple over 90 than any oth­er place on the plan­et.” Ikaria is just one of five so-called “Blue Zones” — which also include Sar­dinia, Italy, Oki­nawa, Japan, Nicoya, Cos­ta Rica, and Loma Lin­da, Cal­i­for­nia — where inhab­i­tants reg­u­lar­ly live healthy lives into their 90s and beyond.

In the Vice video above, you can meet some of the res­i­dents of Ikaria, where 1 in 3 peo­ple live past 90, and learn about some of the fac­tors that con­tribute to long life in blue zones, and in Ikaria in par­tic­u­lar. Great weath­er does­n’t hurt. Most impor­tant, how­ev­er, is local, fresh food, and lots of it. “The most impor­tant thing is the food,” says an Ikar­i­an cook as she pre­pares a batch of fresh-caught fish. “Because you live with it. You eat the right way, every­thing works the right way.” This is a much bet­ter way of say­ing “you are what you eat.” As Max Fish­er points out in a bul­let­ed list of the Greek Island’s “secrets to long life,” things “work­ing the right way” plays a huge role in longevi­ty.

Not only do old­er peo­ple in Ikaria walk every­where and con­tin­ue work­ing into their elder­ly years – hap­pi­ly but not under duress – they also report very healthy sex lives, part of a net­work of habits that social­ly rein­force each oth­er, Fish­er writes. Hear Ikar­i­an res­i­dents above con­trast their lives on the island with their lives in fast-paced mod­ern cities where they trad­ed health and well­be­ing for more mon­ey. Read Fisher’s full list (excerpt­ed below) at The Wash­ing­ton Post.

1) Plen­ty of rest.

2) An herbal diet.

3) Very lit­tle sug­ar, white flour, or meat.

4) Mediter­ranean diet.

5) No processed food.

6) Reg­u­lar nap­ping.

7) Healthy sex lives after 65.

8) Stay busy and involved.

9) Yes, exer­cise.

10) Lit­tle stress of any kind.

11) “Mutu­al­ly rein­forc­ing” habits.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

10 Longevi­ty Tips from Dr. Shigea­ki Hino­hara, Japan’s 105-Year-Old Longevi­ty Expert

How to Live to Be 100 and Beyond: 9 Diet & Lifestyle Tips

Book Read­ers Live Longer Lives, Accord­ing to New Study from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Life Lessons From 100-Year-Olds: Time­less Advice in a Short Film

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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