A Greek island in the Aegean Sea, Ikaria is one of five areas around the world that the National Geographic has classified as a Blue Zone, meaning that those who live there enjoy a much longer, healthier and happier life than what is experienced on average throughout the rest of the world. When compared to Americans, twice as many Ikarians reach the age of 90, with the elderly enjoying robust health and little need for medical care. The increased longevity that Ikarians experience is due to a few unique lifestyle factors that they share. From its geographic isolation to regular outdoor exercise to the healthy Ikarian diet, these are all aspects that we can incorporate into our own lives, no matter where in the world you may live.
Ikaria’s Isolated Location
It takes ten hours to reach Ikaria from Athens by boat, meaning that, over the years, the island has remained largely untouched by development and consumerism. This, coupled with the fact that Ikaria is subject to high winds and has no natural harbors, excluding it from the shipping industry, means that the Ikarians have been able to hold on to their cultural traditions and customs, becoming experts in self-sufficiency.
The Ikarian Diet
The majority of Ikarians have their own garden, meaning that they have daily access to the freshest of vegetables. The Ikarian diet is known to be pretty much completely devoid of processed and refined foods, while meat, which would have been raised in their own backyard, is eaten in small portions around once a week, keeping their levels of saturated fat to a minimum. When compared to Americans, Ikarians consume six times the amount of beans, while their twice-weekly fish meals, always featuring fresh locally caught fish, helps to improve the kidney function of the elderly. Herbs have always played a significant role in Ikarian traditions, and still do so today, with wild-harvested herbs giving the residents of Ikaria a fantastic boost of antioxidants and other nutrients and minerals.
Due to Ikaria’s unique topography, physical exercise each and every day is necessary. Simply walking around town on their tumultuous terrain gets the hearts of Ikaria’s residents racing, and this is enhanced by the fact that social ties are extremely important here, meaning that daily visiting is a regular part of life. The self-sufficient lifestyle in Ikaria also means that plenty of time is spent working outdoors, with these productive activities going a long way in keeping Ikarians fit and healthy.
While Ikarians are healthier than the majority of the world, they do still fall victim to cancer and other diseases. However, on average, Ikarians are around ten years older than the average American when they are first affected, and mental illnesses, such as depression and dementia, are practically non-existent. This may seem too good to be true, but the unique lifestyle that Ikarians enjoy brings with it a whole host of health benefits, and this is something that each and every one of us can learn from.