Visit the Island Where People 'Forget to Die'

Health tips from the fabled Greek isle of Ikaria

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 28, 2012 5:58 PM CDT

(Newser) – Stricken by cancer and given six months to live, a Greek man living in America moved back to his native island of Ikaria—where the cancer mysteriously disappeared. The tale became folklore on Ikaria, where stories of good health date back 25 centuries. Now a study has confirmed what the ancients knew: that Ikarians live longer, succumb to disease later, and manage to stay mentally sharp into old age. So Dan Buettner, writing for the New York Times Magazine, visited the Greek island and asked experts how Ikarians do it. Among the answers:

  • Diet: Lots of beans, veggies, olive oil, and homegrown greens; a good amount of coffee; moderate amounts of wine; little meat and dairy (except goat's milk). Experts have linked all of those to long lifespans. What's more, Ikarians don't eat bad food!
  • Local "mountain tea": Hot Ikarian drinks include a kind of mint tea (fliskouni), sage (flaskomilia), rosemary, and wild marjoram. They also like boiling dandelion leaves and drinking it with lemon.
  • Napping, sex, and walking: And lots of each of them.
  • No sense of time: Many Ikarians don't use clocks or watches, so they're never late. "We simply don’t care about the clock here," says one.
  • Socializing: Ikarians love getting together to sip tea and gossip. Religious and cultural holidays also bring them together. Even loners are drawn out of their shells.
  • History: Whether this helps, no one knows, but Greece exiled thousands of radicals and Communists to the island in the late 1940s.
  • "For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle, I have become convinced, they need to live in an ecosystem," Buettner concludes. Americans can try to eat healthy, but "the processed-food industry spends more than $4 billion a year tempting us to eat. How do you combat that?"
Click for Buettner's full article.

The village of Armenistis in northern Ikaria.
The village of Armenistis in northern Ikaria.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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