Blue Zones are the distinctive geographic localities where you’ll find the oldest life expectancies, the highest concentrations of centenarians (people over 100 years of age), as well as the lowest rates of chronic diseases.
The term was initially created by American author Dan Buettner, who studied these areas with his team at National Geographic. During their research, Buettner placed a blue circle around each locale on a map – hence ‘Blue Zones.’
This small Greek island typifies the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. For many generations, Ikaria’s mountainous landscape has forced locals to be in prime physical condition simply by moving around the island. Exercise is seamlessly integrated into their daily lives, from tending to livestock, gardening, walking along the glorious paths, to doing their own backyard work and renovations. No Airtasker here, that’s for sure.
Ikarians live humble and modest lives prioritising strong relationships between family and friends.
The locals are also proud Greek Orthodox Christians, with 58 parishes spread across the tiny island. Their strong social and religious ties have created a sense of meaning and purpose conditioned in current and future generations. A siesta is also on the daily to-do list and has reduced the risk of heart disease by up to 35%.
The Ikarian diet is a variation of the Mediterranean diet involving the consumption of potatoes, full-fat dairy products, and coffee (Greek-style, of course). The strictly whole food diet is rich in olive oil which provides a source of healthy fats. Fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains are all essential for fibre. Ikarains maintain a low consumption of meat, coupled with moderate red wine consumption.
Dairy products derived from goats are favoured to those from cows since it’s a lactose-free way to get some potassium, in addition to containing tryptophan (a stress-relieving hormone).
As an island, Ikaria loves its seafood, with sardines, salmon, herring, and trout being amongst those most frequently consumed. Ikarians commonly enjoy herbal teas ranging from wild rosemary to sage as they’re high in antioxidants which maintain low blood pressure.
In Ikaria, one in three people make it to 90, and the island is almost entirely free from dementia. Their clean Aegean air, lush mountains, whole food diet, and balanced lifestyle have essentially culminated in a Mediterranean paradise.