Herald Tribune: Live happy and healthy like a Greek!
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Herald Tribune: Live happy and healthy like a Greek!

Live happy and healthy, like a Greek is entitled the article by Marilynn Preston for Herald-Tribune.

This is the time of year I live, work and play on a tiny, remote Greek island with no airport and fewer than 8,500 residents, including goats.

Genetics play only a small part in longevity. Much more important is your lifestyle: what you eat and drink, physical activity; the time taken for family and friends; how you handle tension, trauma, time.

It’s a beautiful, magical, revelatory place. Be happy for me. A generous spirit is a sign that your healthy lifestyle training is paying off.

Of course I take the World Wide Web with me, so anxiety is never far away. And neither is the island of Ikaria, one of the world famous Blue Zones: well-studied communities where surprisingly large numbers of people live into their 90s and beyond, and are vigorous, healthy and relatively happy right to the end. I can see Ikaria from the front terrace. It’s a form of research. It inspires me to ask this age-old question: Why do some people live so much longer than others?

In Ikaria, dementia is practically unknown. In the U.S. dementia is rampant, costly and incredibly scary.

In the U.S., only one in nine baby boomers will live to the age of 90, according to Dan Buettner, head of the Blue Zone movement. On Ikaria, one in three live to 90 and beyond.

How do they do it?

■ Take your time. To live longer, slow down. On Ikaria, watches are as useless as speed bumps. Ikarians are famous for moving at their own pace, working when they want to work, chilling when they want to chill. I learned that on my first visit there, having lunch with friends at a wonderful little taverna in the port of Agios Kirikos. We all ordered Greek salads. Some of us are still waiting.

■ Eat your greens. Over 150 kinds of wild greens grow all over the island, and Ikarians enjoy them in a variety of tasty salads and pies. They’re a super source of antioxidants, and eaten, like almost everything else, with a splash of olive oil on top.

■ Drink herbal tea. Ikarians drink endless cups of tea made from wild mint, chamomile and other local herbs high in compounds that significantly lower blood pressure and decrease their risk of heart disease and dementia.

■ Take a nap. Ikarians take daily 30-minute naps at least five times a week. Blue Zone researchers calculate this lowers their risk of heart attacks by 35 percent! In a few of the mountain villages, they sleep by day and live through the night. Why? Because they want to.

■ Keep moving. Ikarians live in remote steep villages that require vigorous walking. They keep gardens, tend to animals and get lots of exercise every day without even thinking about it.

■ Connect to community. Ikarians maintain strong social ties to their families, neighbors, and villages. They wake up feeling they have a purpose in life. They make time in their day to meet face-to-face with friends.

■ Eat the Ikarian way. Ikarians thrive on local fresh food, all of it organic and unprocessed. They avoid dairy but consume gallons of goat’s milk, as yogurt or cheese. Their version of the Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, beans, potatoes and olive oil, and low in meat, fish, sugar and whole grains. They drink a glass or two of local wine a day — absent nitrates and pesticides. (Some folks thinks it tastes like rotted leaf mulch; I like it.) And they benefit hugely from daily doses of their local honey, a thick amber-colored concoction rich in antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Source: Herald Tribune