Suddenly, people all around the world know of the island that my father was from.
Ikaria, an island in eastern Greece close to the Turkish border, has been a subject of study across not only the University of Athens, but around the world. The "blue zone" has been studied for its life longevity, meaning that most citizens live into their 90s while their activity levels and sex lives change minimally between the ages of 25 and 89.
No one lives forever. But Ikarians come pretty close.
As a [pending] dual citizen of both Ikaria and the U.S., I have several theories as to why we come close to living forever. Unfortunately, I don't think it's all genetic. Even more unfortunately, if I fully commit myself to living just in America as I age, I probably won't live forever. So what exactly are these vast differences between my two home countries?
1) Ikarians nap. Daily. You may say "lazy," but I can vouch that a siesta is incredibly necessary when you're out in the hot sun all day. The sun feels very different in Greece than it does in America. It truly drains you. While visiting Ikaria, I didn't have time off from my job back home and was working remote. Unfortunately, I chose to sacrifice a siesta for 2-3 hours on the computer completing projects that didn't stop back in America. I was constantly exhausted -- and only amplified the stereotype that Americans work too much. Not to mention, you need a nap to stay out dancing until 4 a.m.
I also read once that napping daily decreases heart disease by 40 percent. FORTY. PERCENT. Someone call me Arianna Huffington, because I am a newly labeled sleep evangelist.
2) Ikarians drink 2-3 glasses of red wine a day. Trust me, if you drink their red wine, you will agree with me that it is strong enough to kill any lingering germ in your body. I'm no scientist, but it seems like red wine is actually the healthiest alcohol to consume. I also know that there are several studies on this topic, and whereas I do not study them specifically, I do study a bottle of Cab that I uncork routinely every evening.
3) Ikarians don't label foods as "organic." This is because they don't have to. There are no preservatives anywhere! You wake up at 8 a.m., go to the λαϊκή, or local farmer's market, and get your groceries for the week.
4) On that note, Ikarians pretty much just eat fish. And drink to θάνατο νερό. Apparently this is why their memories and sex lives stay in tact into their 90s. The high diet of fish helps the mind while to θάνατο νερό helps the body. To θάνατο νερό is water found in a spring nearby my village. It translates to "the forever-living water" and equates to their "fountain of youth." Apparently it has diuretic properties and is good for the kidneys. It's so strong that you can't even drink it every day! Ikarians naturally invented the "cleanse."
5) Ikarians never stop dancing. Americans have come to label "exercise" as such an intense thing that you either become obsessed with the gym or obsessed with the couch. I'm not sure we ever communicated that there is something in-between. Walking up a mountain every day? Dancing line dances until 4 a.m.? These activities are incredibly good for you. You don't have to bench-press 250 to be in shape. And I think this is why 85-year-olds are in such great shape there; they got the memo.
So basically, the secret to a long life consists of wine, napping, and exerting as little stress as possible. You don't need a lot of money or a walk in closest to have those things. And this could be where America may be behind it's time (and life expectancy).