Stamatis Moraitis was a Greek war veteran who came to America for medical treatment toward the end of the Second World War. He settled in America and was later diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Several doctors told him that he had less than a year to live (he was in his 60s), so Moraitis decided to go back home to Greece. He returned to his home island of Ikaria to live out the rest of his life among his people—after years of living the American dream.
But then, 25 years later, Moraitis was still alive. What? How had his doctors in America gotten it so wrong? It turns out that the island of Ikaria is one of the "Blue Zones" of the world—or places where living to 100 seems to be rather normal—which were first discovered by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times Bestselling author. Ikaria is a small island in the Aegean Sea stretching 100 square miles, about the size of Tallahassee, Florida. People there live the simple life; they eat minimal meat but consume lots of olives and vegetables. People in Ikaria also nap in the afternoon and stay up late, their social networks are strong, and communities gather in the evenings to philosophize, play dominoes, and dance.
In my book, The Genetics of Health, I talk about what these areas have in common. Blue Zones like Ikaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), and Sardinia (Italy) are all islands where people eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, minimal red meat (mostly marine-based meat), and drink red wine (in moderation). In America, we have our own Blue Zone. Guess where? Loma Linda, California, the home to many Seventh-Day Adventists. Their diet comes straight from the Bible; they eat almost no meat, supermarkets even stock more beans than meat, bread is from lactobacillus instead of yeast, and people walk a lot—which is another commonality of all the Blue Zones of the world.
And while most Blue Zones are islands, you can become an island of health yourself if you follow my favorite health tips from these regions: