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5 Lifestyle Secrets of the World's Longest-Living People

5 Lifestyle Secrets of the World's Longest-Living People
By Josh Dean

Author and adventurer Dan Buettner identified four locations where an unusually high number of people live to be 100. These areas had a number of things in common; the people live in tight-knit communities, have active lifestyles, and eat a diet rich in vegetables. Now Buettner has found a Greek island, Ikaria, where people are three times more likely to reach age 90 than in the U.S. Here's what he learned.

What are these islanders doing right?
Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish), which adds about six years of life expectancy. They also eat a lot of wild greens. We found 70 or so types of greens, many with 10 times the level of antioxidants in green tea or red wine. We also discovered five or six regularly consumed herbal teas, many of which are mild diuretics. It turns out that just by drinking tea morning and night, these people are lowering their blood pressure over time.

Did anything really surprise you?
We found that the Ikarians take naps regularly. People who nap at least five times a week for half an hour have 35% less chance of cardiovascular disease.  We know that blood chemistry changes when you take a nap–your heart rate drops and stress hormones diminish. It’s good for your brain to get some rest.

What about exercise?
The Ikarians don’t run marathons or climb mountains, but physical activity is hard-wired into their lives. The island itself is very hilly. Every time people take off for work or church, they are getting exercise. They burn calories without thinking about it.

What changes we can make?
Find ways to incorporate movement into everyday life. Remove your garage door opener so that you open the door by hand two or three times a day. That will burn about 20 calories. Store the standing mixer and blend by hand–that’s a free mini-workout. Hide the TV remote–every time you get out of the chair, that’s four calories. All those little calories add up. An easy way to cut calories from your diet is to trade your 13- or 14-inch dinner plates for 10-inch ones. Research shows that people who eat off smaller plates eat 20 to 25% less food without thinking about it.

How has your research affected your own life?
I’ve cut most meat out of my diet. I keep a can of nuts in my office. I spend more time with my kids, and I’ve started to go back to church. I spend less time with toxic people. And also, I’ve grown rather fond of seniors.



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