lems and skin ailments. But for much of
the ensuing two millennia, civilization
passed over this wind-beaten, harborless island. To elude marauding pirates,
Ikarians moved their villages inland,
high up on the rocky slopes. Their isolation led to a unique lifestyle.
Over centuries with no outside influences, island natives developed a
distinctive outlook on life, including relentless optimism and a propensity for
partying, both of which reduce stress.
Ikarians go to bed well after midnight,
sleep late, and take daily naps. Based
on our interviews, we have reason to
believe that most Ikarians over 90 are
But what about the Ikarians’ culture best explains their long lives? To
find out, we let visitors to AARP.org/
bluezones direct our team’s quest. Our
online collaborators voted on what
we should research next. One day, for
example, we interviewed hundred-year-old Ikarians to discover what
they’d eaten for most of their lives. The
next day we investigated the chemical
composition of herbal teas.
In all, we found 13 likely contribu-
tors to Ikarian longevity. The formula
below may be the closest you’ll get to
the fountain of youth:
ged terrain, family and village support
have been key to survival. Strong social
connections are proven to lower de-
pression, mortality, and even weight.
Drink goat’s milk Most Ikarians over
90 have drunk goat’s milk their whole
lives. It is rich in a blood-pressure-
lowering hormone called tryptophan
as well as antibacterial compounds.
Maintain a Mediterranean diet
Around the world, people who most
faithfully stick to this region’s diet—a
regimen high in whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, olive oil, and fish—outlive
people who don’t by about six years.
The Ikarian version features more po-
tatoes than grains (because they grew
better in the mountains) and more
meat than fish (because the sea was a
day’s journey away).
Enjoy some Greek honey The local
honey contains antibacterial, antican-
cer and anti-inflammatory properties.
(Unfortunately, the health benefits of
Ikarian honey do not extend to Ameri-
can honey, as far as we know.)
Open the olive oil Ikaria’s consump-
tion of olive oil is among the world’s
highest. Residents drizzle antioxidant-
rich extra-virgin oil over food after
cooking, which preserves healthful
properties in the oil that heat destroys.
Grow your own garden (or find
farmers’ markets) Fruits and vege-
tables eaten soon after picking are
higher in compounds that decrease the
risk of cancer and heart disease.
Get religion Ikarians observe Greek
Orthodox rituals, and regular atten-
dance at religious services (of any kind)
has been linked to longer life spans.
Bake bread The island’s sourdough
bread is high in complex carbohydrates
and may improve glucose metabolism
and stave off diabetes.
Do Ikarians possess the true secret to
longevity? Well, some combination of
their habits is helping them live significantly longer than Americans, who live
on average to age 78. We can’t guarantee that Ikarian wisdom will help you
live to 100. But if Yiannis Karimalis’s
example is any indicator, it may help
you outlive your doctor. ;
Dan Buettner is the author of The Blue
Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From
the People Who’ve Lived the Longest
(National Geographic, 2008).
Graze on greens More than 150 va-
Ikaria’s heart disease rate is about
rieties of wild greens grow on Ikaria.
Some have more than ten times the
level of antioxidants in red wine.
Sip herbal teas Steeping wild mint,
chamomile, or other herbs in hot wa-
ter is a lifelong, daily ritual. Many teas
lower blood pressure, which decreases
the risk of heart disease and dementia.
Throw out your watch Ikarians don’t
worry about time. Work gets done
when it gets done. This attitude lowers
stress, which reduces the risk of every-
thing from arthritis to wrinkles.
Nap daily Ikarian villages are ghost
towns during the afternoon siesta, and
science shows that a regular 30-minute
nap decreases the risk of heart attack.
Walk where you’re going Mountain-
ous terrain and a practice of walking
for transport mean that every trip out
of the house is a mini workout.
Phone a friend With the island’s rug-
half the American rate, and its
diabetes rate is one-ninth of ours.
GO FISH Growing (and catching) food sets a calm pace for island life.