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Living on a Greek island - The key to longevity by Eleni Zafeiratou

By @leelatalie on rizesmas

The contemporary way of life, long working hours, unhealthy food habits, and the lack of physical exercise have increased stress levels and, consequently, health issues that impact our well-being. While some of us are in a daily battle to succeed personally and professionally, keeping in parallel the work-life balance, in some places of the world people continue to follow a tranquil lifestyle, appreciating the small pleasures in life.

One of these places is Ikaria island, famous for its positive vibes and traditional celebrations (panegyri in Greek). Ikaria is also well known for the bad service in restaurants (tavernas) given the contemporary western standards. The local staff is never in a hurry to serve your meal to free up their tables fast to welcome more clients. If you visit Ikaria, you will sense that you are disconnected from the modern world from the first minute. However, there is no shortage of vehicles, mobile phones, and the internet. What makes the difference is that locals are used to serving the people and not the system.

Ikaria has been renounced as one of the places belonging to the Blue Zones, which includes the five small areas in the world where the population outlive the American and western European average by around a decade: Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia, the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica, Loma Linda in California and Ikaria. This phenomenon has been a subject of research across the medical and sociological disciplines.

Overall, research conducted concluded[1] in the following factors as the key to prolonged life, without compromising quality, as most of the elders on the island are in an excellent physical condition compared to their peers in other parts of the world. Firstly, daily exercise, preferably in nature and in rough terrain. This is usually a part of the everyday routines of Ikaria islanders who occupy works in farming, agriculture, and tourism or by simply taking long walks for errands. Minimum stress levels are preserved on the island due to the relaxed lifestyle, including midday rest, enhanced by strong family ties while sustaining an excellent social life full of personal contact. Islanders in Ikaria are famous for maintaining a healthy sex life even during the third age while avoiding taking medication without serious symptoms.

Most importantly, a Mediterranean diet, with limited imported food, including fresh, organic products harvested on the island such as vegetables, fruits, olive oil, honey and red wine, helps longevity. Surveys conducted also show that a significant factor for the longevity of Ikarians is the consumption of Greek coffee and mountain tea, which are vital antioxidants for the body. When it comes to consuming meat, its use is relatively limited using animals grown free and locally, while fishing is taking place sustainably with concern to the environment.

Undeniably, scientific evidence has proved that all the factors mentioned above play an essential role in extending quality lifetime; however, it is the combination of them that actually makes the difference. That combination can rarely be detached from its surroundings.

The key question remaining is, “why we don’t adopt a similar lifestyle in cities, following a healthy diet through supporting local products while making time for exercise and meeting friends and family?” Moreover, if we adopt the same lifestyle in our big cities, are we going to obtain the same results?

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