More Good Years
Want to live longer—and healthier? These secrets from
a sleepy Greek island could show you the way By DAN BUETTNER
In 1970 Yiannis Karimalis got a death sentence. Doctors in Penn-
sylvania diagnosed the Greek immigrant with abdominal cancer and
told him he’d be dead within a year. He was not yet 40 years old.
Devastated, Karimalis left his job as a bridge painter and
returned to his native island of Ikaria. At least there he could
be buried among his relatives, he thought—and for a lot less
money than in the United
States. Thirty-nine years later,
Karimalis is still alive and
telling his amazing story to anyone
who will listen. And when he returned
to the States on a recent visit, he discovered he had outlived all the doctors who had predicted his death.
On Ikaria, a mountainous, 99-square-
mile island, residents tell this story to
illustrate something they’ve known all
their lives: on average, Ikarians outlive
just about everyone else in the world.
For three weeks in April, I led a
scientific expedition to Ikaria to inves-
tigate the reasons for the islanders’
remarkable longevity. It was part of
my research into the earth’s few Blue
Zones: places where an extraordinarily
high proportion of natives live past 90.
Our team of demographic and medi-
cal researchers—funded by AARP and
National Geographic—found that an
amazing one in three Ikarians reaches
90. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only one in nine baby boomers
will.) What’s more, Ikarians suffer 20
percent fewer cases of cancer than do
Americans and have about half our
rate of heart disease and one-ninth
ROCK STAR Giorgos
Stamulos, 102, built
stone walls until just a
year or two ago. Daily
activity contributes to
Ikarians’ long lives.
our rate of diabetes. Most astonishing
of all: among the islanders over 90
whom the team studied—about one-third of Ikaria’s population who are
90 and older—there was virtually no
Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. In the United States more than 40
percent of people over 90 suffer some
form of this devastating ailment.
How do we explain these numbers?
History tells part of the story.
In antiquity Ikaria was known as a
health destination, largely for its radioactive hot springs, which were believed
to relieve pain and to cure joint prob-
GIANLUCA COLLA ( 2)