Who wants to live forever?
Dan Buettner is something of an expert on longevity. He studies Blue Zones, places in the world where people live a very long time. One such place is the Greek island of Ikaria, named for the legendary figure Icarus who crafted himself wings of wax and feathers, but flew too close to the sun. The island has fared much better than he did. In fact, says Buettner, much, much better. Ikaria boasts legendary parties, sexually-active nonagenerians, and siblings who all live into their 90s.
Sounds amazing. But what's the big deal with this tiny isle? Perhaps someone should ask Yiannis Karimalis, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1970. Told he had only months to live, he left the US and headed home to Ikaria to die. He's still alive today.
It seems Ikarians have a knack for avoiding heart disease, diabetes and cancer, all the while enjoying a great standard of living. Buettner is in the process of finding out why. He's currently in Ikaria with a group of demographers, doctors and researchers on a Blue Zone expedition.
So far they know this… Since the sixth century BC, Ikaria's hot springs have been known for their curative properties. Apparently they have high levels of radon, and it's thought that prolonged exposure to low-level radiation can help prevent aging. They also have a diet that is even more Mediterranean than the rest of the region's. Buettner believes they'll find anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and probiotic properties in local products like herbal tea and honey.
But Ikarian longevity may also be due to temperament – an ability to express emotion and move on, optimism, and enthusiasm for parties. They also avoid stress and nap a lot.
So… how are they going to stop everyone from moving there? RM
Image 2: Gianluca Colla, Blue Zones