The men of Ikaria are four times likelier to live past 90

Source: NYTimes

The island devoid of death

The island devoid of death

The beautiful island of Ikaria: home to many centenarians.

10,000 islanders in Greece have a statistically better chance than you of living past 90. Most of them drink three glasses of wine a day, they smoke and some have even seen cancer disappear.

That is the anomaly of the people of Ikaria. Of course the usual suspects are there: the healthiness of the Mediterranean diet and more active lifestyles in the villages.

But in Ikaria, the Greek way of life was somehow sustaining them much longer than their city and island counterparts.

Ilias Leriadis, one of the island’s few GPs, says the strange frequency of longevity comes down to the local daily routine.

“People stay up late here,” Leriadis said. “We wake up late and always take naps. I don’t even open my office until 11 am because no one comes before then.” And the stress of being late is non existent. “Have you noticed that no one wears a watch here?” Mr Leriadis says.

“No clock is working correctly. When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 am or 6 pm We simply don’t care about the clock here.”

Local Stamatis Moraitis has much to be thank his island home for. After the war, Moraitis found himself in America, seeking treatment for a war related injury. He later stayed, got married and had two children. Life was good and Moraitis was happy.

But luck would change for him. In 1976, he noticed he would struggle going up the stairs of his house. Confused he went to his doctor. Sadly, the results weren’t good. Moraitis had lung cancer. He was only given nine months to live. He was in his mid-sixties. He considered getting treatment, but decided against it.

With the high costs of funerals in America, he decided to move back to his island village, to be buried in his hometown by the sea.

Three and a half decades later, without any medical treatment, he’s 97 years old and cancer free. At 97, he shows no signs of dementia, he’s able and healthy. It has been found that Ikarian men in particular are nearly four times as likely as their American counterparts to reach 90 and are often in better health.

They suffered less depression and had about a quarter the rate of dementia. Studies found that Ikarians “consumed about six times as many beans a day as Americans, ate fish twice a week and meat five times a month, drank on average two to three cups of coffee a day and took in about a quarter as much refined sugar – the elderly did not like soda.”

They were also consuming high levels of olive oil along with two to four glasses of wine a day.

Their diet, mixed with the social nature of the island, and the simple way of living created the best form of longevity. As one of the locals puts it, “we just forget to die.”

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