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Longevity zones

People in these locations enjoy extra-long lives.

By Anne Hurley Apr 8, 2013 8:49PM

Those Greeks -- they're always living longer and enjoying life more deeply. Is it that delicious yogurt? Their famous Mediterranean Diet? The ability to gaze out at deep blue seas from their front porches?

Apparently, even among long-lived Greeks, residents of one island in particular, Ikaria, have it made. Ikaria is what scientists call a "blue zone," or a region where people live far past age 90 at a significantly higher rate than the general population.

A new study shows that older residents of Ikaria who regularly drank a certain type of boiled Greek coffee had significantly better heart and overall vascular health than those who did not. Another study, meanwhile, reported that residents of the same island may owe their longevity to a combination of a healthy diet, midday naps, and ongoing physical activity.

But scientists involved in these and other studies have posited that it's not really about the boiled coffee or the exercise. It's about the Ikarians' social interactions.
Author Dan Buettner, who helped study the Ikaria residents, says that part of the Ikarians' secret is as much about how -- and with whom -- they drink that boiled coffee. Ikaria residents usually enjoy their coffee with friends or relatives after their midday nap, and enjoy lingering and visiting over that coffee.

"They also have social interaction their whole life. If you're alone, it's a known killer," Buettner says. "So drink your coffee with a friend."

It turns out that there are blue zones all over the world, where people live extra-long and extra-healthy lives. And their diets seem to have very little in common. Scientists have found blue zones in Corsica; Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, Calif.

Loma Linda is home to the largest population of Seventh Day Adventists in the U.S., and has a significantly lower mortality rate. Part of the reason may be because Adventists don't drink or smoke, and most eat little or no meat. But the Adventists actually have much more in common with the Ikarians than anything diet-related.

They live in a community where they feel connected, they have a sense of belonging, and ultimately they feel cared for. Mario Garrett, a profession of gerontology at San Diego State University, says that Loma Linda, Ikaria, and other blue zones offer what is apparently the biggest health benefit of all: Connection to others.

"That's why they're living longer as a cluster," Garrett says. "If there was no social environment we would find centenarians scattered across the world."

So you could consider moving to Ikaria -- and who wouldn't want to try that? Or, even better, start to build the foundations for a social, interconnected community that will buoy you, your family, your neighborhood, your city. And take your time with your pal over that afternoon coffee.

More on Healthy Living:

Secrets of centenarians
How to live to 100
31 superfoods for a long life

42Comments
Apr 8, 2013 11:05PM
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It's all about good attitude, great friends and a healthy lifestyle. Not about pharmaceuticals, focusing on cholesterol, going to the doctor looking for something wrong, fast food, lack of sleep, spending too much time at work and obsessing over the latest technology.
Apr 8, 2013 10:40PM
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I moved from Florida to Texas. I know I have shorten my life by five years al least.
Apr 9, 2013 12:00AM
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typical American, goes to Doctor to get pills to stay alive after eating American diet, first thing Doc says is to be sure and schedule your next visit ASAP, that way Doc can keep making lots of money treating American stupidity, why do you think Doctors call their profession a medical practice...eat right and never go to Doc unless you think you might die within a day or two............ 
Apr 8, 2013 9:50PM
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Thought you would have said the Commonwealth of Dominica in the Caribbean. The world's oldest centenarian came from this lovely paradise and there's lots more. She lived 127 yrs. and died a few yrs. ago (Ma Pampo) It's natural beauty, healthy fruits, ground provisions,  beautiful rivers, lush green mountains, etc. accounts for that.
Apr 8, 2013 11:11PM
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One more thing these blue zones have in common--they're all in warm climates at oxygen-rich, sea-level elevations. No blue zones in cold locations or in mountain areas.
Apr 8, 2013 10:07PM
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Retire at a beach condo and you will encounter the same social environment on the AL, FL Gulf Coast living with Americans.  
Apr 9, 2013 12:08AM
Apr 8, 2013 10:33PM
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Yes Okinawa, visited there (family lived/lives there). Big thing that help with youth, Goya, it looks like a prickly cucumber/ pickle but is VERY bitter. :)
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