Life expectancies in the UK are going up. The Office of National Statistics thinks that one-third of all babies born in 2013 will reach their centenary. That’s great for the babies, but what should those of us old enough to read the statistics be doing?
We could do worse than look at the places in the world where people seem to live the longest. These are the five so-called ‘Blue Zones’ – small communities in the Mediterranean, Japan and California. They all have a strong sense of community and a relaxed outdoors lifestyle. Their diets are also believed to be a big factor in their longevity.
One example is the small Greek island of Ikaria, where people do indeed seem to live longer. The island has a very high proportion of active and healthy people aged well beyond 90. Ikaria is very hilly and has very little transport, so everyone does plenty of walking. They have a benign climate and a stress-free, sociable community. Perhaps most importantly, they eat the right food - a variation of the Mediterranean diet.
Try these three ingredients for a long life:
More than 150 varieties of wild greens grow on Ikaria. This includes plenty of legumes - vegetables within a pod, such as beans, peas and lentils. We may not all have the climate to grow this food year-round, but make the most of it when it is available. Food with as little processing as possible is so much better.
The important vitamins in vegetables are fat soluble. So the olive oil helps to increase vitamin intake as well as adding taste and healthy fats.
The tea drunk on Ikaria contains compounds that may have beneficial effects on health and longevity. So try some herbal tea for health.
So for a chance at a longer life – take your time, get your exercise (ideally with a friend) and eat like an Ikarian!
tea and chickpeas all round - but I fancy a Greek holiday on prescription. If only...
we're our own worst enemies with stress; remember the idea of the Jetson-style 21st century with 2 hours work a week? If only!
That's a really good point about stress. But surely pace of life is a choice. I know we definitely don't have the culture of saunas and taking relaxed 2 hour lunch breaks, but we can definitely choose to slow things down, just like we choose to eat healthier food.
things certainly look relaxed on Ikaria - but the Greeks have their economic worries too. I can see it being hard to worry in such an idyllic place.
I agree with Elizabeth - the stress levels in this country are taking their toll on so many people and it's that that reduces life expectancy of many as well.
Wonder how much of it is also stress related. Can't imagine the Ikarians have the same pace of life we do here
I saw that TV programme too and it really motivated me to eat more unprocessed foods. That seems to be the gist of it all.
saw something similar on TV recently - long life seems associated with lots of veg and keeping moving. Although interestingly the programme thought the healthiest diet in the world was that of Iceland!