Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of Ikaria – Part 3

This is the third and final part of the distilled wisdom of 105 year old Blue Zone lady of  Ikaria; longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone on diet, lifestyle and happiness. 

So part 3 of the series is on health and longevity according to the 105 year old Ikarian lady called Ioanna who we met on our recent summer holiday to the Greek island of Ikaria.

Ioanna only speaks Greek, so I had my wife (who speaks Greek) ask her some questions for me and translate the answers. 

The main think I wanted to know was what Ioanna’s view was on the chance of the young people of today living as long as her.Ikaria - Blue Zones - Diet advice 

I wanted to know if she though we young folk (anyone under sixty?) were making any mistakes that might jeopardise our chances of a ripe old age

I wanted to know what advice she would give us youngsters to reach the same age as her

She said that people born today had every chance of every living as long as her, 

she says “why not?!” 

The interesting thing was that to her it wasn’t particularly amazing thing that she’d lived as long as she had, that is was just her normal life. But from my experience of spending time with her, I felt that the most important thing was her attitude; that she still enjoyed life, wanted to be here and that she’d never given up on life. 

She’s still appreciating and enjoying every minute of life in quite an amazing way. She enjoyed interactions with people in a very open and genuine way, even random house-callers like us and another lady who rocked up while we were there 

Ioanna said “It’s about living your own life.

“Don’t expect anything from the world, don’t expect anything from your parents”

and that “nobody owes you anything”, that essentially life is what you make of it. 

Ioanna was big on taking responsibility for yourself, she said 

“you have to make your own destiny, it’s your own life and you have all the possibilities in your hand, it’s up to you to deal with it!”

This seems to be a fundamental thing for Joanna, that its a kind of ‘Will to Live’ that is important, that if you want to live then you will. It’s more about your desire to live than anything you’re specifically doing. 

Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of Ikaria 1That seems to be her way or philosophy of life, although she doesn’t seem to be self destructive. She’s not actively doing things that are bad for her. Ioanna seems to have limited or eliminated any overtly harmful habits or practices. I didn’t ask but she didn’t seem to be a smoker so we can assume she was a non-smoker, which is relatively rare is Greece, so that will certainly have helped her.

Along with not smoking, she was also not much of a drinker, she doesn’t eat a lot of meat or any fried food, so that is all a part of it. 

Anyway, back to Ioanna’s advice. She said that you should have a good relationship. She was big on quality relationships! 

she said “don’t be distracted by others”

So this can be maybe taken as the post-modern obsession where the grass is always greener and always looking around for the better relationship rather than working in what you have, and it seems to Ioanna that this has been very important in her life. 

Love!


Love is a big thing for Ioanna. She said love for others, other people, but also love for the universe, the cosmos!

With the great energy that she had spent a lot of time thinking about the wonders of the universe.
She said she’d lay awake at night thinking about the world, the universe and just the wonders of it all (what exactly was a little lost in translation I think). Ioanna also thought it wasn’t good to spend too much time thinking about yourself, being selfish and self-centred.
Instead she said think about the universe, there is this amazing, wonderful thing out there thats for her a miraculous phenomenon that was amazing and glorious. 

So Ioanna is all about the bigger perspective, getting over the ‘me, me, me’ culture that we live in now…

Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of IkariaIoanna said she listens to the inner music that’s playing. She said she hears melodies and symphonies in her head, choirs and orchestras. She sang a little of the music in her head and made her care-worker laugh because Ioanna doesn’t have the most amazing voice, but she’s got the most amazing spirit!

Ioanna regularly lays awake at night thinking just about life, the universe and everything, And I think for her that it’s really important just to have this fascination with the universe and know there’s plenty of reasons to keep going with life.

So she gave her own answers, her own take on things, not actually what I thought she would say at all, but she has definitely got a passion for life and I hope you feel that too.

If you’d like to catch up on the rest of this series, go here for Blog post 1 and here for Blog post 2

My Life Extension Project blog is here and you can get the Blue zones book on Amazon too

Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of Ikaria – Part 2

Blue Zones: Diet advice from a 105 year old

Recently my wife and I went on holiday to the Greek island of Ikaria, where there are people who famously live well into their 90s and 100’s in good health. We met the lovely 105 year old Ioanna, and even heard a report of someone who is 115 and still going strong! Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of Ikaria 2

There are number of factors contributing to this amazing longevity and we have been exploring them in this series of three blog posts on the Blue Zones. This is the second blog post where Ioanna gives us her advice on diet. 

Ioanna told us that although she was a very young child, that she had lived through World War 1 and into World War 2. She said she got married in the second World War in order to have companionship and not feel alone. She didn’t talk about her husband any more than this so who knows what happened there, but she did tell us a lot about her diet! 

I’ll just summarise now that her advice is very much in keeping with the advice in the Blue Zones book by Dan Buettner. I highly recommend the book but if you don’t have time then you’ll get a fair idea about the recommendations for diet from the following post.

Ioanna lives by a rather simple diet that is probably much older than she is. Though with that said I don’t feel she was trying to live to 105, she seems as surprised by it as anyone… But she also doesn’t look to be giving up any time soon! 


Now for her advice:

Ioanna said she doesnt eat very much meat and she has a lot of vegetables and fruits.

She said that fish was okay and I think she maybe ate a little bit of chicken now and then, but she didn’t have any red meats. 

In terms of oil she said she really liked olive oil on her salads and that she used a little corn oil in cooking, but she said she didnt eat any butter. 

Ioanna did also say don’t fry things, that its bad to fry food and you should bake or boil them instead. 

And in terms of fruit and vegetables, she said that she eats everthings like potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes, things like that. There are figs and grapes growing outside her front door, so she certainly eats fresh fruit on a daily basis!

She doesn’t have a big or heavy meal in the evening. She just has a snack and very weak milky coffee.

Ioanna said she quite enjoyed a coffee and a few figs and also maybe a few biscuits in the evening.  And she seems to be okay with eating a little bit of sugar now and then.

She also said that every morning she’d have a teaspoon of Ikarian honey and it was quite nice. 

Ioanna says she enjoys a little bit of wine with water now and then. Ikaria - Blue Zones - Diet advice

She said she doesn’t drink beer or the famous Greek drink of Ouzo or Tsipouro or the stronger spirits, just a little bit of wine and water. (She has a habit of repeating herself but that can be helpful for us young folk with our short attention spans)

One of her gems about drinking alcohol “Drink wine if you can drink it, but not if it drinks you!”

So as you can see Ioanna has quite a simple diet. and I would say probably everything in Ikaria that she eats is essentially organic, because everything is grown naturally from the land. I think it’s quite good volcanic soil, high in nutrients and they are still farming and growing in the traditional Greek style.

It’s a very fertile land, there’s fruit growing everywhere, right outside her front door there are grape vines and fruit trees.
The island also has its own underground water source and receives more rain than the average Greek islands in the autumn, winter and spring so I think that helps a lot.
It’s more difficult for those of us who live in the colder countries and more temperate climates as things don’t grow quite as easily or reliably… and there’s not much food just growing on the trees where I live!

If you’d like to read more then there’s more information on diet in the Blue Zones book, and they generally agree with Ioanna (in fact I’m quite sure she contributed to the book) 

To summarise Ioanna eats a little bit of meat, mostly fruits and vegetables and also nuts, she drinks a little bit of red wine, 

Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of Ikaria 1And one of the main things she said is that she doesn’t eat in the evening. 

So she’s right on track with the diet recommendations in the Blue Zone book. 

There’s also a growing belief that Greek coffee has anti ageing benefits, which is good for coffee drinkers to know 🙂
I hope you’ve enjoyed Blue Zones blog post no. 2, the next and final part will be blog post no. 3 where I ask Ioanna about her opinion on whether the young people of today have as good a chance to live to 105 as she did!
Please post any questions below or any advice that you’d like to share on longevity and healthy ageing

Part 1 is here

Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of Ikaria – Part 1

My wife and I were recently on holiday in the Greek Island of Ikaria, which in recent years has become famous as one of the world’s ‘Blue Zones’ where people regularly live into their 90’s and 100’s in good health and are leaving a lot of the rest of the world behind in terms of health and longevity. 

Long term human health is an interest of mine and I’ve written about it here at this site: thelifeextensionproject.com and below is a series of blog post exploring some advice I received from a 105 year old Ikarian lady called Ioanna.

Ioanna was born in 1911 and is still very sharp of mind at a huIkaria - Blue Zones - Diet advicendred and five years old, although her body is starting to go on her now and she walks with a zimmerframe, also she had an accident two years ago at 103 and her right shoulder has ceased up. Luckily I was able to give her a short Shiatsu treatment to help the pain in her shoulder and neck, which she hugely appreciated. She even started to call me Dr. Simon. 

Her advice on living a long and healthy life came in 3 parts. Primarily blog post 1 is about happiness and outlook on life, blog post 2 will be about diet and blog post 3 will be about the future of health for the young people of today

Oh well let’s call young people those under 70 or 80 for her. 

Happiness and outlook on life. 

This seems to be just as important to Joanna as her work and her diet. She had a very passionate view of the world and even at her rather advance age was sharp, witty, funny and very quick! She was happy to impoart her view of the world and give advice to the young (although she didn’t speak english so I had everything translated) 

Her advice was as follows. 

“It’s important to love the Universe, the Universe is life”

She said she stays awake at night thinking about the Universe and the wonders of the Cosmos. Joanna thinks this is an important part of her long term health and her ability to persevere through difficulties and to still be here a long time after many of her friends and family passed on. Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of Ikaria 1

Other nuggets of her wisdom and advice:

She said “Don’t be jealous. Jealousy is what makes you ill” 

“If you’re not happy about other people then it’s your own unhappiness and so its jealousy, which is not good”

“Be happy for other people’s success. If other people are successful you should be happy for them” 

and 

“You shouldn’t resent their success because what does that get you? It just makes yourself unhappy! So just feel happy for them” 

and 

“When other people feel sad then feel sad too.” 

My understand of this is that it’s more about having appropriate feelings for other people around you, to say connected and not be separate from each other. It stands to reason that you shouldn’t feel happy about other people’s misfortune, or to see somebody whose life was better than yours and then gets worse and that makes you happy… It’s just the wrong way!

More of Ioanna’s advice was around money and posessions

she said “don’t accumulate money. Life here (ed: on Ikaria?) is not about making more money than you need. You can’t take it with you. Just have enough and to be able to live a happy, comfortable life. Having more than you need isn’t going to bring you any happiness.”

Longevity advice from the Greek Blue Zone of IkariaThis stands to reason. There is no point in spending your life acumulating weath and posessions without enjoying life itself. But I’m going to try to do both and enjoy the whole journey as much as possible!

Ioanna also said to make your own life. She was rather concern about a lot of young Greeks (in particular, as that’s where she lives and her frame of reference) who were living off their parents and being rather demanding and asking for money from them, expecting a lot from their families. She believes that “nobody owes you anything, so don’t expect others to look after you.” 

“You have to make your own life” and that “it’s important for you to be independent and stand on your own two feet”  

“Just have enough for a good life. You dont need to be spending your time accumulating and wanting more and more because also that is whats making you unhappy”

Seems to me an almost Buddhist philisophy for life, but it’s solid and makes good sense to me 🙂

Ioanna has a rather simple approach to life, she is a very straight forward woman who lives in quite a basic house, but she was still working at her trade as a weaver right up until the age of 105. She is an inspirational and quite a remarkable lady who has quite a passion for life even now!


Further blog posts are below, and please subscribe for updates or check back soon!

Blog post 2 is about Ioanna’s approach to diet

and blog post 3 is about her view on the young people of today!