Greece and the Secret to Eternal Youth

From as far back as 425 B.C., when the ancient Greek historian Herodotus first posited its existence, people have searched for the  ‘fountain of youth’. Crusader Prester John spread stories of its existence and Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon sought it as he travelled to the new world. Subsequent historians have elaborated on its mythology and possible attributes with many claiming that those who pursue it long for virility, fertility and the physical allure that is lost with age, while others claim it is the source of eternal life.

While Herodotus believed that the fountain might have been located in what is now Somalia, perhaps he should have been looking closer to home. After all, it is on the small Greek island of Ikaria that people are living significantly longer than anywhere else on earth.

Ikaria is a tiny rock island located 50 kilometres west of Turkey in the blue-green Aegean Sea. It is typical of Greek islands in many ways – locals sip coffee in the shade of leafy plane trees, business owners open and close their doors according to their own schedules and often customers take what they need simply leaving money behind on the counter in return.

But it is unique because the residents of Ikaria live far longer than the regular population, and remain active well into old age. In fact, one-third of the island’s population lives to be more than 90 years old and, more importantly, remains physically active after the age of 100. This longevity and virility is attributed to the balance of a eating a traditional, well-balanced Mediterranean diet, daily physical activities, daily naps, low stress and family and community coherence.

The great news then is that Herodotus was right. There is a fountain of youth! And we can all partake of its waters by adopting the Greek Ikarian way of living…

Eat a traditional, well-balanced Mediterranean diet.

The traditional Greek ‘Mediterranean diet’ is still followed by the Ikarians today and is largely based on fresh, unprocessed seasonal products such as homegrown vegetables and fruits, cereals and grains, fresh-caught fish and little to no meat. It also, of course, includes a great deal of olive oil and the occasional glass of wine. It is low in saturated fat and high in dietary fibre, starch, antioxidant vitamins and polyphenols (from the wine and olive oil).

Studies show that this type of diet can keep people young by protecting their genetic code as they age. It also helps prevent cardiovascular disease, and is even thought to protect against some cancers. What a delicious way to live longer!

Engage in daily physical activities.

Live like the Ikarians, and hike up mountains. Or cycle along the beach, or sail a boat, or swim in the ocean – but whatever your fancy, getting plenty of exercise will ensure you a long life. Plus it is so much fun. Even better, get your friends and family along with you.

Take a daily nap.

Napping is often associated with the Spaniards, but traditionally the Greeks have engaged in this happy pastime as well. Sleep deprivation can lead to health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and even an increased risk of mortality. Better and longer sleep, on the other hand, is associated with better health.

So, pull out the hammock, close your eyes and imagine you’re on a secluded white-sand beach or rolling through the swells on your way to your next island adventure!

Lower your stress levels.

It’s no secret that stress is bad for health. But research shows that cumulative stress has a significant negative impact on mortality – in other words, if you experience a lot of stress, you are more likely to die sooner. While we can’t all live our lives like the Ikarians, showing up to work whenever we like (or not at all!) or spending the morning chatting with friends at the local café, we can take a page out of their book and try to live life a little more slowly, and eliminate stress wherever we can.

Spend time with your family, friends and in your community.

Spending time with family and friends, and being active in the community, is wonderful. But it is also extremely good for you. Frequent socialising boosts wellbeing and lowers risks of depression. There is also evidence that it is good for your brain. People whosocialise more, have better memory and cognitive skills. And people with more social support from family, friends and community live longer than those who are more isolated. Moreover, socialising increases physical health and boosts the immune system, so while you are living longer, you will also be living better.

So, call your mum, meet up with friends for dinner, or better yet, book in a holiday with your family. It will help you live longer!

If you’d like more travel information, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 1800 242 353.