The Greek & Costa Rican Way to Health and Longevity

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Over the last two weeks, we have reviewed the first two episodes of the Netflix Series “Live to 100 – Secrets of the Blue Zones”. We’ve learned how the Okinawans, Sardinians and 7th Day Adventists have created a lifestyle to foster extraordinary longevity.

Today, we travel to Greece and Costa Rica to find other secrets to these longevity hot spots. These unique areas provide a blueprint for how to live our lives to assure we age well. 


It’s probably not a surprise that one of the highest concentrations of Centenarians is in Greece, home of the Mediterranean Diet. The Greek diet is high in produce, legumes, fish, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats, and low in red and processed meats, sugar, salt, and saturated fats. This approach to nutrition tends to get the highest marks in terms of protection against diabetes and heart disease.

One particular area in Greece, the Island of Ikaria, boasts half the rate of cardiovascular disease and a life expectancy 7 years longer than Americans.  

Minimal Processing

Ikaria had no natural ports and was isolated from the rest of the ancient world until 1980. The island had to be self-sufficient, and residents were forced to live off the land. They used plants for food and medicine. Their drink of choice is Herbal Teas made from the herbs of the land, providing anti-inflammatory health benefits and may even be responsible for their lower levels of dementia. Instead of sugar or high fructose corn syrup to sweeten their foods, they use raw honey that isn’t pasteurized or boiled, which destroys the healthy compounds. Even their wine is processed differently and is natural with no chemicals added. Through the hardship of living on an isolated island, Ikaria emerged as one of the healthiest areas on the planet.  


Ikarians understand the importance of partnerships, community, and connection. Their ancient traditions are preserved and celebrated. They dance, listen to music, and laugh. In America, we often associate exercise with pain, but Ikarians understand that movement is joyful and laughing and connection is good for the heart. 

Nicoya, Costa Rica

Nicoya, Costa Rica is a rural, poor, peninsula isolated from the rest of the country, It is home to the most extraordinary Centenarians on the planet, with the proportion of centurions 3.5x greater than the rest of the world and many living without medication and disability. Nicoyans have a biological age 10 years younger than their chronological age. Typically, as income goes up, life expectancy increases, however Nicoyans have 1/6th  the income of the United States, but they exceed our longevity, and enjoy one of the longest life expectancies in the world. 

They do everything by hand

The Nicoyans spend their days cleaning, preparing food, chopping wood, growing their own food, and cutting the grass and weeds with a machete. They don’t use equipment, machines, or appliances. They get more exercise from everyday chores than going to the gym. This keeps their metabolism revving all day. This unconscious movement has made them one of the healthiest areas on the planet and our labor-saving devices in America are causing us to age faster and die earlier. 

Work/Life Balance

Nicoyans have a sense of purpose, even until their later years. They work hard, typically in the morning, but then they rest, play, and enjoy life. They have learned to slow down to make time for things that matter.

Preventative Health Care

The Nicoyans spend 1/15 the amount that Americans do on health care per capita. However, their approach to health care is prevention of illness and disease, whereas in USA, our health care system thrives on waiting for Americans to get sick and then getting paid to heal the disease. It is more effective and not as costly to prevent disease versus cure it. The Nicoyans have figured that out, providing a more effective health care system despite the level of poverty in this area.  

3 Sisters

Their diet high in beans, squash, & corn in the form of tortillas, referred to as the 3 Sisters, offers nutrients, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber, controls cholesterol, cleanses the colon and provides protein without the saturated fat.  

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan


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