Ikaria: The Isle of Longevity

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN


Ikaria is a small island off the coast of Greece. It’s known as a blue zone, a longevity spot where people have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.

Approximately a third of Ikarians live to be over 90 years old — and in relatively good health.1

Diseases such as depression and dementia are much less common there than in the United States.2

So what is it about the Ikarians that allows them to live for so long? Below we’ll dive into some of the possible reasons.

Does Their Diet Promote Longevity?

The Ikarians grow their own food in their backyards. They also herd goats and other livestock. 

Vegetables, beans, olive oil, fish, and whole grains make up the majority of their Mediterranean-style diet. They drink goat milk, coffee, and wine. Meat is eaten about twice a week.

Herbal teas such as wild rosemary, sage, and oregano are consumed on a regular basis. Fasting is done nearly half of the year due to religious traditions.3 Processed sugar is rarely consumed.

Do Their Habits Promote Longevity?

Ikarians are not sedentary people. They walk, garden, and do plenty of yard work. Physical labor is done by the young and old.

In addition, they like to take mid-day naps, which research has shown may decrease the risk of cardiac-related deaths by 37%.4

Do Their Hot Springs Promote Longevity?

Since ancient times, visitors have flocked to the hot springs of Ikaria. Legend has it the waters have healing powers.

Today, the Ikarians continue to enjoy their hot springs. Chemical analysis shows the waters are rich in minerals. Could this contribute to their longer lives too?

Does Their Slower Pace Promote Longevity?

Contrary to life in the big city, the pace of life is slow in Ikaria. People don’t seem attached to the idea of a schedule. They work and socialize at their own pace. Needless to say, they don’t live a stressful lifestyle.

Does Their Sense of Community Promote Longevity?

Everybody seems to know each other on the island. The social ties are very strong in Ikaria. People get together very often and solitude isn’t common among the elderly. Festivals and celebrations are held regularly.

The Bottom Line

Scientists aren't exactly sure what allows the Ikarians to enjoy a long and healthy life, but it’s most likely a combination of factors.

One thing is for sure - it’s probably not a bad idea to adopt some of their habits. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll live a little longer if you do.

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.hellenicjcardiol.org/archive/full_text/2011/5/2011_5_479.pdf. Accessed November 5, 2014. 
  2. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/the-island-where-people-forget-to-die.html?pagewanted=all. Accessed November 5, 2014. 
  3. Available at: http://www.bluezones.com/2014/03/ikaria-exploration-lessons/. Accessed November 5, 2014. 
  4. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Feb 12;167(3):296-301.

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