Friday, July 15, 2011

Go Greek: Siestas and the Fruits of the Sea Prolong Life

Living to be a centenarian is relatively rare. It is less rare these days than it used to be, but in any case, only 0.1% of the European population lives to be 90. This is not true, however, if you're from the tiny island of Ikaria in Greece; there, ten times that many people, 1.1% of the population, live until they are at least 90, leaving researchers scratching their heads for an explanation.

From June to October 2009, cardiologists from the Athens University school of Medicine polled a sample of the island's residents and found that an astonishing percentage of people lived in good health for longer than average. The residents were asked questions about their diets and lifestyles in addition to clinical information to look for clues to explain this phenomenon.

According to the researchers, the responses that predominated were healthier eating habits, including lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil and seafood, in addition to drinking coffee and taking regular midday naps, or siestas.

Among the elderly, naps were far more common and depression rates were lower compared to the younger population. The incidence of common chronic diseases and conditions that present themselves worldwide, including diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, presented much later in Ikarians.

In addition to their healthy habits, genetics is thought to play a role, in explaining the longevity of Ikarians, however the link has not been clearly established just yet.

The results of this study are not entirely surprising, as we know that sleep and a healthy diet, particularly one that follows the Mediterranean style of eating are the best things we can do for good health. The moral of the story, however, is that despite knowing much of this information, we really have to start taking it to heart if we want to reap the same results as the Ikarians! it nap time yet?