Discover the Secrets of Ikaria Island
The island of Ikaria depicts beautiful bays with white, sandy beaches, deep gorges, and last but not least, high mountains. According to legends, Ikaria is named after the legendary hero Icarus who had plunged into the sea while trying to escape the labyrinth of the Minotaur in Crete together with this father by using self-made wings.
Ikaria is located around 30 miles off the western coast of Turkey. It is a unique island as its inhabits believe in a simple and stress-free life. But the approximately 8500 inhabitants of this small Greek Aegean island don't have an easy life, but according to research a fairly long one when compared to other countries. The percentage of over 90-year-olds is ten times higher than the European average. Celebrating a 100th birthday is not a special event on Ikaria. Diseases such as cancer, heart disease and dementia are a lot less common.
Over 2500 years ago, Greeks would travel to the Island of Ikaria to soak in the natural springs. To this day people claim that there is just something special about the island. The healthy air, the clean water, gardens filled with home-grown vegetables and fruits, animals grown without hormones. Most Ikarians don't even wear a watch. Time isn't of high importance on Ikaria.
Little Stress and lots of Sex
One of the scientists who was trying to unravel the secret to longevity on Inkaria Island was Christodoulos Stafanidis, director of the cardiology department at the Athens Hippocrates Hospital. Stefanidis believed that the long lifes can be attributed to a lot of exercise, low stress, healthy diet and plenty of sex.
The cardiologist interviewed 284 men between the age of 65 to 99 years. Eight out of ten said that they regularly engage in sexual activities. But that's only one factor of many. The mountainous island forces its inhabitants to stay active. Mass tourism is unknown at Ikaria. Few travelers visit the remote island. Therefore, the people of Inkaria can still practice traditions. These include a balanced diet consisting of little meat, but lots of legumes, wild vegetables, fruits, herbs, fish, olives, goat's milk and sheep's. Nutritionists have discovered dozens of herbs on Ikaria which the inhabitants use to prepare teas that contain a high amount of antioxidants and therefore counteract stress.
Coffee, wine and afternoon naps
The people of Ikaria do not live in constant asceticism. The cardiologist Stefanidis pointed out three factors that have made the people of Ikaria enjoy a vibrant and long life. The strikingly high levels of consumption of traditionally brewed Greek coffee counteracts heart disease according to Stefanidis. Relaxing naps in the afternoon are enjoyed by most people on the island. In addition two glasses of red wine in the evening in the best of company is one important fact that the physician emphasizes on. The life-extending traditions of Ikaria in the opinions of the scientists are also due to their social structures such as the coexistence of sometimes four generations in big families, the joint celebrations in the village community giving them the feeling of togetherness and solidarity.
Living like the Ikarians
To some of us it sounds almost impossible to imagine such a simple life, To others it sounds like the ideal way to live life, Little or no stress, away from the 9-5 ratrace and simply living a healthy life. But fact is that we are encompassed by such a fast-paced life including bad diet and stress that it takes great effort and in our opinion, lots of money, to change that. The quest for survival doesn't allow us to even think whether such life would be possible. The thought of four generations all living together isn't everyone's ideal choice of living. Maybe it is because we have become so obsessed by money and materialism that we can't even imagine a different life. And maybe it is exactly that constant need for more, the need to be better than others that causes us to be unhappy unable to enjoy the basics of life.
So, why not take some time off,. Forget about your stresses. Visit Ikaria, not as a tourist but as a person who wants to discover how Ikarians live, how they survive and why they are so happy.