Living Long in Ikaria

Ikaria is a tiny Greek Island surrounded by the Aegean Sea in the far east of the Mediterranean, just 30 kilometers off the Turkish Coast. Why is this isolated little island so special? It is unique as it is one of the few places on Earth, where longevity is not the exception, but the norm.

Ikaria, Pinterest, Pinterest
The Blue Zone Island  

Ikarians tend to live much longer than people normally do. It is not surprising to come across centenarians on the island, who enjoy good health and an active life.

Dan Buettner, a former long-distance cyclist discovered this special feature of Ikaria in 2004, when he researched demographics and longevity in the world. He teamed up with physicians and demographers and investigated locations where life expectancy was high and the concentration of centenarians exceeded the average. He only found five such locations in the world, which he named “blue zones”. One of these blue zones is Ikaria, where approximately 8,000 people enjoy the privilege of longevity.

In Ikaria, the likelihood of people living to the age of 100 is a staggering 10 times higher than in other parts of the world. Ikarians not only live long, often to 100 years of age and beyond, but they do maintain good health throughout their lives. For example, Buettner and his team discovered that elderly Ikarians tend to be free of dementia, depression, cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Ikarian elderly -, Pinterest, Pinterest
When Buettner and his team started to investigate the reasons of longevity on the island, they looked into the island’s history, culture and climate and they also interviewed locals about their lifestyle, nutritional habits and general outlook on life.

From a historic point of view, it turned out that in the past, Ikaria was frequently invaded by Persians, Romans and Turks. The invasions prompted the local population to move to the central area of the island, where they lived in isolation. Because of their isolation, they developed a micro-culture, which is unique and completely their own. In the Ikarian micro-culture, family, traditions, social life and support of each other are very important values. As an elderly Ikarian pointed out, “It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”.

Climate may also be a contributor to the exceptional life expectancy on Ikaria. The warm weather, the proximity of the sea and the good quality air definitely support health. Just like the mountainous terrain that prompts locals to maintain an active, outdoors lifestyle.

The traditional, low calorie Ikarian diet may also contribute to the healthy and long life of locals. Ikarians don’t’ consume refined sugars or processed foods and they eat meat very rarely. Instead, they maintain a primarily plant-based diet, consisting of home-grown vegetables. They consume beans, lentils, potatoes and wild greens. They eat plenty of fish, too. Dairy is rarely eaten, except for goat’s milk. Also, Ikarians drink lots of coffee, herbal teas infused with sage and mint and well as home-produced, pure red wine. Everything they eat and drink is home-grown and locally produced, therefore they don’t consume pesticides and chemicals. Ikarians also fast occasionally, which is also said to be beneficial for their health by slowing down their aging process.

As Ikarians grow their food and raise their animals themselves, they maintain an active, outdoor lifestyle. They spend a lot of time outdoors and they also walk fair distances every day, mostly on the mountainous inland terrain of the island. Life in Ikaria is active, but not stressful. Locals take afternoon naps, don’t rush and spend a lot of time with their families, friends and neighbours. They have purpose in life.

The research came to the conclusion that longevity in Ikaria is down to a multitude of factors including culture, geography, climate, nutrition, lifestyle and positive spirits. Life is not only long, but it is of high quality.

The Recipe of Ikarian Longevity

Let’s see what we can take over from the Ikarians to support a long and healthy life for ourselves:

  • Adopt a Mediterranean diet: Follow a primarily plant-based, organic diet. Add lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and pulses and try cooking with olive oil. Drink some good quality red wine and try herbal teas. Avoid meat as much as possible, but do include some fish in your diet.
  • Minimise your dairy intake: Minimise processed dairy intake, and replace cow’s milk to goat’s milk in your diet.
  • Be active: Exercise is key in the traditional Ikarian lifestyle in the form of farming, gardening and walking. It is advantageous to adopt some of these practices into modern, urban lifestyles, too. Try walking, a bit of gardening if possible and just spend time outdoors.
  • Drink herbal teas:  Herbal teas include antioxidants that keep diseases at bay and strengthen the immune system. Sip a cup of tea infused with mint, sage, rosemary or oregano and enjoy their health benefits.
  • Take a nap: A midday rest can be beneficial for your health as it lowers stress hormone levels and rests the heart. It is, unfortunately, wholly impractical to include naptime into urban lifestyles. Nevertheless, if you try having a nap at weekends, you may enjoy some of the benefits.
  • Fast: Ikarians are Greek Orthodox Christians, who occasionally fast due to religious purposes. Try restricting your calorie intake occasionally by 30 percent or more, as it is a proven way to slow down the aging process of mammals.
  • Socialise: Spending time with family, relatives and friends is beneficial for our mental health. Keep good spirits and socialise!
  • Manage your stress levels: Ikarians are not stressed-out folks. Do try to manage your stress levels to maintain your health and enjoy a longer life!

Let’s learn from Ikarians and adopt their way of life as much as we can! We may live longer and happier lives!

Toxic Fumes in the Air

What are Toxic Fumes?

Unfortunately, we are constantly exposed to toxic fumes due to the serious pollution in our environment. These fumes and gases make their way into our direct environments and homes, too. In urban settings, they are everywhere.

Toxic fumes and gases can be poisonous to varying degrees. Sometimes, they are seriously dangerous to human health. Sometimes they are only present in the air in low concentrations, having lower impact on us. Still, the impact is there and it can accumulate, having a quite bad effect on our bodies.

Symptoms of mild exposure to poisonous gases can include mild headaches, wheezing, coughing, vomiting, nausea, fainting, fever, chest pain, etc. Long-term inhalation or more serious doses of toxic gases can lead to lung diseases, heart diseases, cancer and even death.

Shape Magazine Headache
Shape Magazine

Most toxic fumes are the result of man-made processes and products. They may originate from a wide range of places including our heating and air conditioning systems, emissions from our cars and other motor vehicles, by-products of production and manufacturing in our factories, side effects of chemical processes and even from the smoke given off by cigarettes and candles.

We are constantly exposed to toxic fumes generated by our own modern lifestyle. In order to eliminate some of these toxic gases from our lives, or at least to limit their presence, we need to change our lifestyle.

What To Do About Toxic Fumes?

Unfortunately, we have to be realistic and have to acknowledge that we cannot change the industrial, modern world. We cannot live without the use of fossil fuels at the present time. We cannot stop industrialisation and environmentally unfriendly manufacturing practices and the use of harsh chemicals, overnight. As the humans of the 21st Century we depend on these non-ecological substances, methods and practices.

What we can realistically do is to limit our own harmful, environmentally-unfriendly practices, changing our own attitude toward the environment, being more aware of the adverse health impact of our modern lifestyle and trying to lead a greener and environmentally-conscious life.

Toxic fumes

In order to limit our exposure to toxic fumes, we may start to eliminate them from our own direct environments and homes. The following tips may be useful in doing so:

  • Limit usage of chemicals as they generate fumes. These gases may be toxic to the environment and human & animal health.  Some of their impact may not yet be known to us. Eliminate synthetic cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products from your home and opt for safer, ecologically-friendly products and organic or fully natural alternatives.
  • Limit the use of plastic in your home and in your environment. Plastic always contains phthalates, which are chemicals that may disrupt the hormone system. You may be surprised how much plastic products you may be able to eliminate from your environment, or at least recycle. Let’s start with limiting the usage of shopping bags, plastic bottles, packaging materials and let’s start recycling. Aim to buy products made out of natural materials instead of for a mass-produced plastic version. Even though it is probably going to be pricier, it will be more durable, healthier and kinder to the environment.
  • Ditch artificially scented candles and air fresheners as many of these cheap home scenting agents that emit volatile organic compounds. These may contain formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, alcohol and esters, triggering allergic reactions. It is a better idea to use organic beeswax candles and pure essential oils to scent your home.
  • Paint can be a problematic substance in your home as it may release toxic fumes. If you can smell the characteristic chemical smell of paint, it is a bad sign that you are and will be exposed to potentially toxic fumes in your own home. Make sure to use a healthier version of paint, which contains no volatile organic compounds.  Alternatively, wax can be used as a finish on wood.
  • Using public transport or a bike instead of going everywhere by car will limit the emission of toxic fumes into the air. It may be a big change in your life to walk or cycle to the nearby shop or use public transport when you go to the office. It may be strange to give up the privacy of your own car for a while, but soon you will realise the benefits both to your own health and to the environment.

Do you have further tips that may limit the release of toxic fumes and gases into the environment? If so, let us know; we would be keen on your tips, too!

Rubbish Island in the Maldives

The Maldives is a unique holiday destination, a honeymoon dream destination for many. With its pristine white sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons and shallow waters, the island nation offers the holiday of a lifetime. Its fabulous setting and luxury resorts are truly unparalleled. These features are coupled with one of the most friendly and hospitable people on Earth, who make an escape to the Maldives truly special.

When we see pictures of this paradise country in glossy magazines or hear about a perfect honeymoon spent on one of the islands of the Maldives, it does not really occur to us where the waste products go from these impeccable luxury resorts and how the country disposes of its rubbish. If we were to know, we might be shocked.

César Quintero - Pinterest

Thilafushi, the Waste Dump of the Maldives

The waste of the otherwise perfect country is disposed on an artificial island named Thilafushi.

Thilafushi is less than 7 kilometres away from Male, the capital of the Maldives. It was brought into existence in the early 1990s after reclaiming one of the shallowest lagoons in the country, Thilafalhu. At that time the lagoon was barely 7 km long and 200 meters wide. Today, due to the landfilling activity of two decades, the landmass of Thilafushi is 0.43 square kilometres (4.6 million square feet).

Currently, Thilafushi is partially a waste dump and partially an industrial area. At its creation Thilafushi-2 was used as supplement land for ever-growing industrialisation. It is used for boat manufacturing, cement packing, methane gas bottling and warehousing. All of these industrial activities take place on landfill.

According to environmentalists, Thilafushi is growing by one square meter a day due to the vast amount of rubbish – approximately 330 tonnes – arriving on the rubbish island on an average day.

Environmental Apocalypse on Thilafushi

The shocking thing about Thilafushi is not the landfill or the rubbish island by itself. It is not beyond imagination that waste is produced even on the paradise islands of the Maldives and there is a need to get rid of it. It can even be said that it is sensible that the waste is accumulated in one place as opposed to be burnt locally on each island or dumped into the sea.

The problem with Thilafushi is twofold:

  • The way the rubbish is collected and processed on the rubbish island does not happen in an environmentally-friendly way. The waste is not sorted properly. Only plastic bottles, engine oil, metals and paper are extracted from the inbound rubbish and sent to India for processing. Everything else – including electronics and batteries – are simply burnt on the spot. As a result, toxic fumes are created, which simply go up into the air, polluting the environment.
  • As a result of land reclamation by landfilling, toxic waste is simply placed into the ocean. Lead, mercury, asbestos and other hazardous waste ends up in the water, which may poison the water, marine life and consequently endangers the food chain, risking human health, too.
  • Several dozen migrant workers are employed on Thilafushi, whose work conditions are of a serious concern. According to reports, they work 12-hour shifts 7 days a week on the rubbish island, without any safety clothing and equipment. This means that they constantly breathe in toxic fumes as a result of irresponsible burning of waste products.
DailyMail-Mail Online-Maldives
Daily Mail, Mail Online

Is There a Solution?

The government of the Maldives signed a privatisation deal with a German-Indian waste management company back in 2008. It promised to deploy modern technology to process waste on Thilafushi. However, the private company has not arrived on the rubbish island, to date.

Promises are made that the private partner will start work this year and will install an incinerator on Thilafushi. From this it is expected that the open burning of unsorted waste will stop on the island.

Environmentalists call for more effective waste collection, recycling and monitoring of air and sea pollution around Thilafushi, too.

As Thilafushi is in a state of crisis at the present time, hopefully, the government will finally stop delaying the implementation of a resolution for the matter.

Living Long In Okinawa

Okinawa is a Special Place

Okinawa is a rural prefecture of Japan, famous for the longevity of its population. It is a special place, as on the islands of Okinawa the number of centenarians – i.e. people who live at least 100 years – is one of the highest in the world, in proportion to the total population. Currently there are approximately 700 centenarians living on the islands of Okinawa, according to Dr. Bradley Willcox, a geriatric specialist.

Aubrey Backscheider, Pinterest

The centenarians and other elderly of Okinawa are a prime example of successful aging. Okinawans do not only live long but they live a long and healthy life. They go through a slow and delayed aging process and they experience cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia to a much lesser extent than other populations.

Although the genes of Okinawans may play a role in their longevity, the way they live may also give us indications as to a lifestyle supporting a long and healthy life.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study

In order to determine the secret of longevity of the Okinawans, Japan’s Health Ministry has been funding a health study among the Okinawan elderly since 1975. This ongoing health study is The Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS). The OCS aims to uncover the genetic and lifestyle factors associated with longevity of Okinawans; and based on the results it wishes to improve the health and life expectancy of other populations.

The age of the subjects of the OCS have been validated through the Japanese family registration system, the so-called “koseki”. The physical and mental state of the subjects has been assessed by baseline geriatric examinations. Since the launch of the study in 1975, the assessment of 900 subjects has been carried out and further assessments are to be expected. The OCS is highly respected in the scientific community and its results are assumed to be generally valid.

Jake Jung, Flickr

Let’s see how Okinawans live and try to follow at least some of components of their lifestyle.

Lifestyle Tips of The Okinawans to Support Longevity

According to the results of the OCS, the lifestyle and the unique diet of Okinawans may be the most important factors in favour of their long and healthy lives.

  • Okinawans follow a primarily plant-based diet. They eat at least seven servings of vegetables and a few servings of fruits on average, in particular dark green leaves, seaweed, bean sprouts, green peppers, onions and sweet potatoes. The vegetables and fruits they eat tend to come from their own farms and gardens.
  • Okinawans used to consume lots of sweet potatoes. It used to be so popular that sometimes it made up to 70% of the traditional Okinawan diet. This may be very significant, as sweet potatoes have a low glycaemic index and contain a type of flavonoid in abundance. The OCS shows that when the sweet potato consumption of Okinawans tended to decrease in favour of rice, type II diabetes and obesity started to increase among the subjects of the study. A lesson to learn is to eat carbohydrates with low glycaemic load, e.g. sweet potatoes instead of white rice.
  • Soy consumption is key in the diet of Okinawans, which may be responsible for avoiding menopause symptoms like hot flushes, osteoporosis and heart disease. As soy is a weak estrogen, it creates a protective effect against diseases like breast cancer. Other isoflavones in soy slow the development of prostate cancer, which is virtually non-existent in Okinawa. As soybeans, tofu and miso are eaten every day in Okinawa, it’s time for us too to incorporate them into our diet.
  • One of the favourite spices of Okinawans is turmeric, which as been popular since the first imports from India arrived in the 6th Century. Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric is assumed to be a powerful anti-inflammatory substance that can be efficiently used in cancer prevention and treatment of tumours. As the cancer rates in Okinawa are exceptionally low, the turmeric consumption of the population may be responsible for the low prevalence of the disease. Check out Terrific Tumeric to know more about this special spice.
  • The people of Okinawa eat meat as only a rare treat. They do consume pork and beef, however they do so sparingly and tend to save it for special occasions. They do eat fish in larger quantities but do not eat dairy at all. Their diet is largely vegetable-based and their primary source of protein are legumes and soy. The lesson to learn is to limit meat, fish and dairy intake and try to follow a primarily vegetable & fruit-based diet.
  • Okinawans drink lots of water and green tea. They consume up to 12 glasses of water a day and drink lots of unsweetened green tea, too. The potent blend of Okinawan blend of green tea, Sanpin, protects against cancer, heart disease and the aging effects of UV rays. Try to get hold of Sanpin or, if not possible, at least drink lots of Japanese green tea.
  • The people of Okinawa start a meal by saying “hara hachi bu”, which roughly means “eat until you are 80% full”. They eat slowly and they stop before getting full. Thanks to this habit Okinawans are accustomed to living on less calories – only 1200 – than other populations. These eating habits reflect their cultural values of respecting moderation and balance. Let’s try to eat less, but more nutrition-rich food, eaten slowly, just as the Okinawans do.
  • Last but not least, the Okinawans lead a peaceful, stress-free lifestyle. They wake up at sunrise and go to bed at sunset. There is no rush and no artificial stress in their lives. They meditate, follow the rhythm of nature and they are very optimistic and positive people. It’s a useful lesson to learn from them to limit our exposure to stress and learn to cope with it.

Let us all follow the Okinawans and live long and healthy!

Eddie Levin, Pinterest

If you are interested in The Okinawa Centenarian Study in more detail, the official website is as follows:

Cherish Charity

Charity is a very long-established concept. All the main religions embrace it, in one way or the other. Charity is very much in line with both religious philosophy and general, securlar concerns about humanity. In addition to religious bodies numerous foundations, trusts, non-governmental organizations and philanthropic individuals work for good causes all over the world.

There are the big names in the “industry” such as Oxfam, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that many heard of. These tend to run by professional staff, have huge budgets, receive generous donations and can have a significant impact on globally pressing matters. In addition to the big “brand-name” charities, there are also small, local organizations and little charity shops that work with local staff and volunteers, tackling small-scale but significant problems in their locations.

Today’s post aims to promote the work of the small charities and seeks to encourage you to get involved, give support and help the needy. Some of these points will be well known to a number of you.  However, it may be beneficial to remind ourselves from time-to-time of the benefit of charitable endevors.

It is a nice idea to offer small donations if you have the means. Even small contributions can make a difference, especially if enough of us contribute a little for a good cause. Little by little substantial amounts may be raised and thus big goals can be realized. Nevertheless, charity does not solely equate to monetary donations. Contributions via volunteer work, time and effort also counts and sometimes it is even more valuable than simply opening our purses and wallets. Sacrificing our time or offering our skills are equally charitable acts.

CharityShopKatie Wright, The Telegraph

If you wish to get involved but don’t know how to start, here are five tips to help you to get started:

  1. Offer your unnecessary items for the needy – things that you don’t need or don’t use but are still in good condition. Unwanted presents and clothes that you haven’t worn for a few years, or household items that are sitting around in your house without any plans to use them will be appreciated by someone else. You can do so via the nearest charity or religious organization. Contact them or look out for collection boxes, where you can place your items.
  2. Help out at one of the local charities. If there isn’t any in your area, you can offer your help to the local nursery, school, old people’s home or the social department of your municipality, the public library, the local hospital or an animal shelter. The choice is abundant. Teachers and social workers tend to be overworked and underpaid so they will probably welcome your giving a helping hand, even if it is only for an hour or two. Whatever your skills are, somewhere both your time and your skills will be useful and very much appreciated.
  3. If you are into sports, sign up for a charity run or walk. The concept is getting more and more popular and lots of money may be raised to support you on your charity run or walk.  The secondary benefit of such an endeavor will be your increased fitness level! Check out to find an event you may be interested in.
  4. Offer a little cash for a microfinance loan offered to low-income people or individuals without access to credit. A microfinance loan can help disadvantaged people to launch a small business or fulfill their diverse needs. Check out Kiva and choose a little project that you would be happy to lend your money to:
  5. Sponsor a child in a developing country.  Organizations such a and allow you to review profiles of children in various corners of the planet who need help with basics, such as access to clean drinking water and education.
Children in AfricaChildren in Africa by Jonathan Tolleneer
on Pinterest

In my view giving or sharing something, doing something for others or helping someone in need can be deeply rewarding. Giving or helping just for the sake of it, without compensation or expectation, pleases the soul. It is part of our human nature. So, find a cause that matters to you. Help, give and enjoy the spiritual reward and the knowledge that you can make a small difference.

Not So Fantastic Plastic

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), production of plastic has reached a staggering 265 million tons in 2010. Additionally, plastic production has increased by about 5% per annum since the 1990s. It can be expected that this trend will continue and may even increase over the longer term.

Plastic surrounds us

Wherever we look, we find ourselves surrounded by plastic. Furniture, gadgets, utensils, clothing accessories and even building materials are either made of, or make use of, plastic.

A mind-boggling amount of plastic is used by the food industry, too. Ready-made food tends to be packaged in attractive looking plastic or plastic-coated packaging. Vegetables are sold in little plastic boxes or trays presented so as to convince us about their quality and purity. Bread is delivered in a plastic pouch, juices and milk comes in plastic bottles or plastic coated cartons, frozen food is sold in thick plastic bags. Whatever product we can think of, it comes with a layer of plastic around it, in some form or the other.


The personal care industry is no different. Most products on supermarket shelves come in plastic containers. The packaging of shampoos, lotions, creams, and toothpaste all come with high amounts of plastic, not to mention personal hygiene and baby care merchandise.

This pervasive use of product is a marker of the modern era. Various chemical technologies help to make our lives easier. These technologies contribute to the development of consumption-oriented societies, where a vast amount of merchandise is available cheaply, thanks to mass production in the Far East. Given the low price, quality cannot be always expected to be good. So, we use such products for a while and then throw them away. Replacement is easy and inexpensive and the choice is abundant.

What’s the problem with plastic?

The key problem with the unprecedented level of plastic usage in the 21st century is the amount of waste it generates. Many types of plastic do not biodegrade at all. If they do, the breakdown process may only take place if certain circumstances prevail. Sometimes an extremely long time is needed for plastic waste to degrade.

Due to the lack of biodegradability, plastic either ends up in landfills, is incinerated or ends up in our oceans. Given the amount of plastic we use, landfills are scarce. Incineration may cause the release of toxins and heavy metals ending into the air, waters and soil. Eventually these harmful harms can end up entering the food chain.


So, the process is sometimes dangerous to the environment and to human health. Sometimes plastic waste is washed into our waters and floats around for several years in sewers, streams, rivers and seas before vast quantities of plastic items come together in the middle of our oceans. As a result, marine debris patches are found in the North Pacific and in the Atlantic. The plastic floating around in the middle of the oceans has wide-ranging consequences including substantially disturbing the marine life.

What can we do about this matter?

Given that plastic dominates the modern lifestyle, it is impossible to eliminate it. What we can do is to recycle what we can and reduce our plastic consumption.

Recycling plastic is sometimes a tricky business as it cannot always be recycled. Sometimes, it can be “downcycled” only, i.e. lower grade plastic items can be made out of recycled plastic. However, downcycling can only happen a few times before such a plastic item ends as a waste product.

What may be more effective is to reduce our plastic consumption. Here are five tips that can help us in dramatically decreasing our individual plastic consumption. If enough of us try to embrace these idea, such can have a powerful, collective impact.

  1. Refuse to use plastic bags when shopping. Handsome textile alternatives and wicker baskets are readily available. Use reusable cotton mesh produce sacks to measure fruit and vegetables in supermarkets. The fruit & veg section tends to be a major place of plastic bag usage.
  2. Don’t purchase overly-packaged food & personal care items. Opt for ones that are sold in glass jars, glass bottles or metal containers, as these are easier to recycle. Refuse all plastic that you don’t need.
  3. Reduce take-away food purchases, use your own metal mug when you buy your take-away coffee and ditch straws, plastic cups, tops and plastic cutlery.
  4. Buy in bulk. Larger items require less packaging. As a consequence, less packaging is thrown away and therefore the impact on the environment is proportionally less. As a nice bonus, you will also save a little money in the process!
  5. If you no longer need a possession that is in decent condition, don’t throw it away. Sell it via an online market place or, better yet, offer it for the needy. There are countless charities that welcome donations. It is not only better for the environment, but it feels good, too.

If you have thoughts on the subject and further tips, let me know!