Wellness Wednesday – Six Secrets to a Long Life from Ancestral Greek Islanders

Greek Island SantoriniIn the Next Avenue article Secrets From the Island Where People Forget to Die, author Laine Bergeson writes about the remarkable longevity of the residents of the Greek island of Ikaria:

“On the Greek island of Ikaria, people forget to die.

For the most part, they also forget to get sick – the island’s many nonagenarians experience relatively little cancer, cardiovascular disease or dementia.

This small island in the north Aegean Sea has been the subject of much study by researchers across the world. Every outsider wonders: What is the secret to a long and healthy life?

In her cookbook Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die, ancestral Ikarian and part-time resident of the island, Diane Kochilas, offers an insider’s perspective on why this far-flung Greek community lives so long and so well.”

Here are some of Kochilas’ longevity tips:

1. Eat locally, seasonally and sparingly. The octagenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians I spoke with on Ikaria all described the eating habits of their early years — years of dire poverty, dearth and isolation — not so much in terms of what they ate but of how little they ate, because there simply wasn’t that much food.

Meat was rare, for some as rare as two to three times a year on the big holidays. For others who may have had animals (mainly chickens), they could afford to slaughter a few times a month. Fish was accessible if one fished; gardens were carved into terraces along Ikaria’s steep slopes and watered sparingly.

The 100-year-olds ate what they found in nature, from snails to mushrooms to wild greens, as well as what their gardens provided. There was and is still virtually no processed food on the island, except in some restaurants.

2. Live deliberately and don’t rush. The pace with which people move on Ikaria (including my own family!) never ceases to amaze me: slow, deliberate, unhurried, but with enough time to observe and live in every moment.

3. Enjoy sleep. We sleep so much when we are on Ikaria. It’s a godsend. I don’t know if it’s the atmosphere or the clean air, but I can sleep there totally soundly for 10 hours, even with daylight pouring into the room. Ikarians nap. All older Greeks nap.

4. Let things go. The Greeks say, ‘Don’t hold the bad in.’ There is so much truth and wisdom in that. Ikaria is a place where people tend to be easygoing, forgiving and unstressed. It’s also a place where the local culture allows for a very liberal interpretation of what it means to be uninhibited. The panygyria, local feasts of wine and dancing that are usually in celebration of a saint’s name day, are the place to witness how we let loose and enjoy it. Dancing has a lot to do with it. So does the strength of the local wine.

Read the rest of the tips: Secrets From the Island Where People Forget to Die.


DAYNA WILSON: As a real estate agent I have been working with homebuyers and sellers throughout the East Bay communities of Layfayette, Moraga, Orinda and Walnut Creek since 2009. As a Certified Senior Housing Professional (CSHP) , I have special knowledge about everything from reverse mortgages to the importance of universal design. I can tap into my network and put you in touch with my team of qualified home inspectors, movers, attorneys, CPAs, organizers and other experts. I have all the resources and knowledge to simplify the transaction and eliminate the anxiety of selling your home.

Call me today to talk about your real estate concerns. I’m here to listen: 925.788.6582

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