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    Lessons on living to 100 from Ikaria as described in the book ‘Blue Zones’

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    Wednesday, March 02, 2016 11:49 am Email this article

    Here are the lessons about how to live to 100 based on practices from Ikaria, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, as described by Dan Buettner in the book The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.


    Try these common practices from Ikarians:

    Drink some goat’s milk.

    Adding some goat milk to your diet could provide a great source of calcium, potassium, and the stress-relieving hormone tryptophan. Researchers found that goat milk is very similar to human milk and provides oligosaccharides, which promote healthy intestinal flora. It’s also hypoallergenic and can usually be tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant.

    Mimic mountain living.

    The longest lived Ikarians tended to be poor people living in the island’s highlands. They exercised mindlessly, by just gardening, walking to their neighbor’s house, or doing their own yard work. The lesson to us: Engineer more mindless movement into our lives by living in neighborhoods with sidewalks, owning a bike that works, and planting a garden each spring.

    Eat a Mediterranean-style diet.

    Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil. Try cooking with olive oil, which contains cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats. Two other lessons: Look for the freshest oil, as time can diminish its antioxidant power, and never cook with so much heat that the oil smokes. High heat breaks down healthy fats, making them much less healthy.

    Stock up on herbal.

    People in Ikaria enjoy drinking herbal teas with family and friends, and scientists have found that they pack an antioxidant punch. Wild rosemary, sage, and oregano teas also act as a diuretic, which can keep blood pressure in check by ridding the body of excess sodium and water. The key is to drink herbal teas every day and rotate varieties.


    Take a cue from Ikarians and take a midafternoon break. People who nap regularly have up to 35 percent lower chances of dying from heart disease. It may be because napping lowers stress hormones or rests the heart. Or it may be because nappers tend to live healthier lives. The bottom line: Your kindergarten teacher may have had it right.

    Fast occasionally.

    Ikarians have traditionally been fierce Greek Orthodox Christians. Their religious calendar called for fasting almost half of the year. Caloric restriction—a type of fasting that cuts about 30 percent of calories out of the normal diet—is the only proven way to slow the aging process in mammals. Regularly and moderately reducing calories, either as part of a diet or as part of a religious practice, may yield some of the same longevity benefits Ikarians enjoy.

    Make family and friends a priority.

    Ikarians foster social connections, which have been shown to benefit overall health and longevity. In fact, researchers who analyzed 148 different studies found that people who weren’t connected to their communities had a 50 percent greater chance of dying during the follow-up period of seven and a half years (on average) than those who had strong social networks. So get out there and make some plans.


    This is an excerpt from
    The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (2014)
    By Dan Buettner


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