This island in the Aegean Sea is known for its natural beauty and longevity of people who live past 90, two times the rate as Americans. Ikaria is home to about 8,500 people and has a culture and lifestyle supporting elders and preventing health issues and diseases.
The Mediterranean diet plays a significant role in people’s health. It consists of the following:
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
Meat and dairy are consumed but in moderation. Grass-fed goat milk is preferred as it contains potassium and a stress-relieving hormone, tryptophan. Ikarian people drink lots of herbal tea with antioxidants using wild rosemary, sage, and oregano. These teas steady blood pressure levels and rid the body of unneeded sodium and water.
Some other habits of Ikarian people are a regular nap that lowers stress and rests the heart. Basic movements such as gardening, walking, and yard work keeps people active. Most Ikarians are Greek Orthodox Christians and fast almost half the year, which cuts the calorie intake and slows the aging process.
These factors and the social connections they make within the community account for the healthy lives of Ikarian people, where they are almost entirely dementia free and live longer than other Europeans and Americans.
Okinawa, once called the land of immortals, is home to the world’s longest-living women. People on this island have less cancer, heart disease, and dementia than Americans.
The Okinawan people follow a plant-based diet and have many food staples. This includes:
- Stir fry vegetables
- Sweet potato
- Miso soup
Vitamin D from the sun is essential, which they get from gardening and walking. Gardening reduces stress and is a fresh source of vegetables for their plant-based diet.
A part of their culture is “moai,” a social network that provides lifelong friends. This group starts from childhood and continues for the rest of their lives. In the groups, people respect and support one another, being a safety net for each other.
The Okinawan people also have a strong sense of purpose they call “ikigai.” This provides people with a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, which helps make elders feel needed when they reach their 100s. Ikigai gives people motivation and keeps them resilient as they get older.
Ogliastra Region, Sardinia
The province of Ogliastra was the first blue zone identified and has the highest concentration of centenarian men. With a population of around 58,000, it is the least populous province in Italy and has extraordinary longevity. Ogliastra is geographically isolated, and the genes of residents remain strong and healthy.
Their diet consists of whole grains, beans, garden vegetables, and fruits. Meat is reserved for special occasions or on Sundays. Goat milk is consumed as it protects against Alzheimer’s and inflammatory diseases.
Some ways the people of Ogliastra stay fit and healthy are:
- Walking a lot - helps muscle and bone metabolism
- Drinking red wine daily - reduces stress among men
- Laughing with friends - humor increases the survival rate
There are strong family values where each person is cared for. This lowers depression rates, suicide, and stress. Grandparents and great-grandparents are valued and well-respected in their families. They are a source of love, financial help, and wisdom, resulting in healthier and better-adjusted children.
Loma Linda, California
Loma Linda is the only Blue Zone in the United States. The Seventh-day Adventists live about ten years longer than the average American with their lifestyle and diet choices.
Their faith encourages them to take care of and nourish their body. They do this with a vegetarian diet and abstain from alcohol and smoking. Nuts are a big part of their diet; consuming them five times a week gives the people of Loma Linda half the risk of heart disease, and they live two years longer than people that do not eat nuts.
They participate in a 24-hour Sabbath, focusing on family, God, and nature. This is important for them to relieve stress and strengthen their social network as they meet for potlucks, go hiking, or have a picnic. Adventists tend to spend time with other Adventists, surrounding themselves with like-minded people.
Some things the residents of Loma Linda do to promote their healthy lifestyle are:
- Regular low-intensity exercise to keep them active
- Early light dinner to promote better sleep
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
These practices and lifestyle result in people having lower blood pressure, low blood cholesterol, and less cardiovascular disease than other communities in America.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
The Nicoya Peninsula has the lowest middle-aged mortality rate and has the second-highest concentration of male centenarians after Ogliastra.
A social network is a big part of their lifestyle and living a healthy life. The people in Nicoya make sure to:
- Focus on family
- Listen and laugh
- Visit neighbors
- Live with families, children, and grandchildren
The Nicoya people have “Plan de Vida,” a reason to live. This gives a positive outlook on elders and keeps them active in the community. People are constantly interacting with others and making conversation. Families living together make sure people stay involved in each other’s lives.
The traditional diet consists of black beans, bananas, squash, yams, corn tortillas, and papaya. The peninsula gets a lot of Vitamin D, promoting healthy body functions. The water in the peninsula has a higher concentration of calcium than any other part of the country. This results in a lower rate of heart disease, strong bones, and fewer hip fractures.
Hard work is a crucial component in the lives of the Nicoyan people. People stay hard at work with physical chores around the house or outside. They typically walk to markets and others’ homes.
Education is prioritized and highly valued. The government declared education a right for every citizen and provided funding for higher education. After people graduate, they devote time to the community. This ensures people are putting effort back into their people and supporting them through service.
Take time out of every week to spend with friends and family. Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, rest on Saturday to recharge for the week and see their loved ones.
Exercise every day, and enjoy nature. Many Ikarians live in mountainous regions and spend time gardening outside, walking, and breathing in the fresh air.
Pursue your job with passion or find hobbies that make you happy. Okinawans all have a sense of purpose called “Ikigai,” which they define as a happy medium between what they are good at and love to do. They report less stress and greater mental well-being by doing something they enjoy daily.
Focus on your career, but don’t revolve your life around it. People in Sardinia, Italy, tend to have a more comfortable work life, where they prioritize their health and family above everything else. They have steady jobs but don’t push their bodies to extremes for a single promotion.
Be content with what you have. Instead of constantly wishing for what you don’t have, take time out of every day to be grateful for what you do have. Residents of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica thrive upon a life of simplicity, satisfied with their smaller incomes and often living in the same house their entire lives. They find joy instead in their routines, friends, and family.