The Ancient Keys to a Long Life

November 14, 2012 / Michael M. Siegel, MD

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Photo credit: Andrea Frazzetta/LUZphoto for The New York Times

Over $90 billion is spent by the health and diet industries annually in pursuit of the keys to longevity. So what if we told you that an island off the coast of Turkey already has the answer, and they’ve had it for centuries?

A recent New York Times article covered the Greek island of Ikaria, isolated in the Aegean Sea. Folks here often live to be over 100. These centenarians are not commonly afflicted with the complaints of our elderly. They rarely suffer from heart disease, cancers, diabetes or Alzheimer’s, obesity or depression. What’s the secret? That’s what scientists have spent years trying to discover.

Not surprisingly, there’s no silver bullet. The lifestyle is a combination of many life-enhancing factors: A local plant-based diet low in dairy and meat. Coffee and wine. Plenty of walking. Daily naps. Teas infused from common herbs including marjoram, mint, sage and rosemary. And constant social interaction with family, friends and neighbors.

What can we take from such inexact conclusions for ourselves? Perhaps the strongest message conveyed by the Ikarians is this: slow down, enjoy life; stop pushing so hard to get to the end of each day. And if possible? Take a nap!