This story is published on The New York Times in 2012:
A Greek war veteran named Stamatis Moraitis was diagnosed with lung cancer and he had only 9 months left to live. He lived in the United States and was in his mid-60s. Moraitis decided to return to Ikaria where he could be buried with his ancestors and left more money for his wife because a traditional Ikarian funeral was much cheaper than the one in the United States.
He and his wife moved in with his elderly parents, into a tiny house on two acres of stepped vineyards on the North side of Ikaria. Initially, he stayed in bed as his mother and wife tended to him. Then he reconnected to his faith by hobbling up the hill to a Greek Orthodox on Sunday mornings. His childhood friends came to visit him every afternoon and they talked for hours with one or two locally produced wine. Moraitis thought that he might as well die happy.
But strange things happened. He felt stronger. He started to plan vegetables in the garden. He didn’t expect to live to harvest the vegetables. But six months passed and he still survived. Everyday he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until mid afternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he played domino past midnight at the local tavern. Today he’s 97 years old and cancer – free.
I was so captivated by the story, and started to learn more about the island. And here is what I found after reading “Ikaria: Lessons on food, life, longevity from the Greek island where people forget to die” by Diane Kochilas:
Clean air, organic fruits and vegetables, moderate daily physical activity, relaxed lifestyle, closely knit family relations and community engagement seem to play important roles in giving Ikarians healthy and long lives. The Ikarian study in 2009 found that Ikarians were 10 times more likely to reach their ninth than either American or Western Europeans.
To this day, Ikarians eat very little processed food. A typical Ikarian breakfast includes goat’s milk which is much easier to digest than cow’s milk, herbal teas with sage and honey, a few olives and one or two rusks. Lunch consists a lot of beans. They eat beans almost everyday. Dinner is mainly starch-based with noodle, fermented yogurt or potatoes cooked in tomato sauce with a little pork.
Ikarians are not just physically healthier than their counterparts in other parts of the world, they are also mentally healthier. They suffered less depression and dementia. They have a relaxed sense of time which allows them to not living by the clock, and to have more room in social interaction as their philosophy of life: ” live and let live”.
My clients often ask me what more they can do to prevent diseases. The story about the longevity of Ikarians seems to be the best answer I could give them.
* Please do aware that all information on my site is not meant to take the place of advice by doctor, licensed dietician-nutritionist, psychologist or other licensed or registered professional.