Ikarians’ Secrets to Longevity

The rate of people living more than 90 years is ten times higher in Ikaria, in comparison with the European one (0.1 %). Scientists claim that the secret lies mostly in the eating habits combined with daily physical exercise. Fish, fruits, vegetables, pulses and tea “shield” the heart and vessels of the Ikarians and their daily midday nap helps elders avoid depression. The daily use of olive oil benefits sexual activity and a medium amount of consumption of coffee as well, may constitute the secret of longevity of the residents of this island, noted cardiology professor of the University of Athens, Christodoulos Stefanadis, who comes from Ikaria.

The first outcomes of the research, which was conducted from June until October of 2009 were revealing. 673 elder people (of an average age of 75+/- 6.5, 49% of them were men) and 657 younger people (of an average age of 54+/-, 46% were men) who live permanently on the island participated. The frequency rate of smoking was 17% among the elder and 42% among the middle-aged, high blood pressure was up to 65% among the elder and 29% among the middle-aged, sugar diabetes was up to 23% among the elder and 13% among the middle-aged and finally, 21% of the elder had a medical history of heart diseases, while only 4% of the middle-aged.
However, scientists underline that what makes the elder people of Ikaria to be different is their type of diet, which includes more fish, fruits, vegetables, pulses and tea than the younger generation. The elder Ikarians choose a more healthy diet more frequently (68% of the elderly men above 80 years old and 64% of the elderly women) in comparison with people of a similar age according to the ATTICA study (urban, semi-urban region) and with researches of other island populations in the Mediterranean sea. Also, elders take midday naps more often (75%) than younger people. The daily use of olive oil benefits the sexual life of elders, as there are higher rates of satisfaction by their sexual activities. As far as coffee is concerned, a medium consuming, 1-2 cups of Greek coffee per day contributes to better vessel stretching, while consuming more caffeine does not seem to extend further the vessel age.
The depression rates were lower in comparison with other elder populations (according to the ATTICA study). However, it seems that even the augmentation of 1 grade in the Geriatric Depression Scale (0-15) can lead to a 12% higher risk of cardiovascular problems, which is related to the presence of a metabolic syndrome. Symptoms of serious depression can be seen in 4% of the elder men and 9% of the elder women (of an average age of 75 years old).
68% of the elder consume at least once a week tea, whose frequent consuming reduces the levels of lipids even to the diabetics, while improves the kidney function, as it appears by the creatinine clearance.
As far as physical exercise is concerned, 85% of the participants said that they do not exercise intensively. But it seems that walking and farm work lower the weight and the risk of cardiovascular cases. This was more obvious in women, which reflects the different impact of the cardioprotective advantages of exercise between the two sexes.