People living on the Greek island of Ikaria are ten times more likely to see their 90th birthday than those from the rest of Europe. Researchers claim the Ikarian secret for long life is daily physical exercise and a regular diet of fish, fruit, vegetables, pulses and tea. The daily use of olive oil in cooking also benefits sexual activity and a moderate consumption of coffee could also account for the longevity.
These are the main findings of research into the residents of Ikaria, according to cardiology professor Christodoulos Stefanadis, of Athens University.
Research conducted in 2009 showed the elderly had healthier diets, with healthy food eaten by 68% of the elderly men above 80 years old and 64% of the elderly women, compared to those of a similar age in urban and semi-urban regions and also with those of other island populations in the Mediterranean.
A total of 673 residents with an average age of 75 plus (nearly half of these men) and 657 younger people, with an average age of 54, took part in the survey on Ikaria island.
Rates of depression were much lower on Ikaria compared to other elderly populations, according to the study. However, there was a strong link between depression and cardiovascular problems. Symptoms of serious depression were seen in 4% of the elderly men and 9% of older women.
As far as physical exercise is concerned, 85% of those surveyed said they did not exercise intensively but it was noted that regular walking and working outdoors in the fields helped reduce weight and lowered the risk of cardiovascular problems.
This was very obvious in women, the study found, and reflected the different impact of the cardioprotective advantages of exercise between the two sexes.