Lessons From the Man Who Almost Forgot to Die

Stamatis Moraitis was shot in the arm while fighting in World War II.

Seeking medical care, the then 33-year-old Greek man made his way to the U.S. by boat.

Moraitis decided to stay in the U.S. He started out in New York painting houses before moving to Florida, where he married the love of his life.

He and his wife built a nice life together: three children, a three-bedroom house, and a 1951 Chevrolet. Moraitis had made his American dream a reality...

But in 1976, Moraitis started feeling short of breath. He saw three different doctors, and they all said it was lung cancer. They expected he would die within nine months.

To escape the financial burden of a having funeral in the U.S., Moraitis and his wife moved back to his homeland – the Greek island of Ikaria.

At first, Moraitis stayed in bed while his wife and mother looked after him. But gradually, he began feeling better, so he started getting active again...

He spent much of his time admiring the beautiful scenery and breathing the fresh air. He would walk to church, socialize with childhood friends, and plant grapes in the backyard for his wife to enjoy after he was gone. He used those grapes to make homemade wine and drank a few glasses every day.

Despite the doctors' claims he had months to live, years went by... then decades...

And Moraitis was full of life, earning him the nickname "the man who almost forgot to die."

Eventually he did die, as we all do. He was cancer-free and 102 years old... an age which most of us will never reach.

But in certain places around the world, it's more common for folks to live active, meaningful lives into their 100s.

These places were named "blue zones" by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer and author.

Buettner identified five Blue Zones – Ikaria, Greece... Okinawa, Japan... Sardinia, Italy... Loma Linda, California... and Nicoya, Costa Rica – and spent time getting to know the people there and learning how they lived.

As Buettner points out in his documentary Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, all Moraitis did was change his environment, and he got to enjoy more than 30 "extra" years of living...

But while the term "blue zones" has become popular this year, we've been telling folks how to live longer and increase their healthspans for years.

So today, I want to share three of my top tips for longevity...

No. 1: Move Your Body Every Day

Any amount of movement is better than no movement at all... and being sedentary increases your chance of dying sooner.

A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined sitting time and mortality in 17,013 Canadians, aged 18 to 90, over a 12-year period. The researchers found that the risk of dying from nearly all causes (except cancer) was higher among folks who spent more time sitting.

Even small changes can make a huge difference...

A 2015 study found that participants who used just two minutes of every hour that they spent sitting to do light-intensity activity (like casual walking, light gardening, or cleaning) lowered their risk of dying from health problems caused by sedentary behavior by 33%.

Do what I do and get your daily movement through a variety of activities. I enjoy cycling, walking briskly in the late-afternoon sun, and stretching and strengthening my body with yoga.

No. 2: Eat Like a Mediterranean

If you want to eat healthy, it's as simple as following the Mediterranean way of eating.

The Mediterranean diet consistently tops the charts as one of the best ways to eat, offering many health benefits. And one big reason for that is one of its major components – extra-virgin olive oil.

Researchers are still uncovering the many benefits of regularly eating olive oil. Some of those benefits include:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Preventing cholesterol buildup in your blood vessels
  • Promoting weight loss
  • Protecting against neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's

And an Italian study published earlier this year found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (which, along with omega-6 fatty acids, make up about 11% of the total fat content in olive oil) helped to restore the integrity of the mucus barrier in the guts of mice.

Your gut barrier allows you to absorb essential nutrients from your food, keep harmful materials from being absorbed (like bacteria), and neutralize potential threats to your immune system. So, simply by eating olive oil, you will help improve some of the essential functions of your gut.

No. 3: Be Social

A 2021 survey from insurance giant Cigna shows that more than half of adults in the U.S. report feeling lonely. What's more, researchers have linked loneliness to dementia and premature death.

But oxytocin, known as the "love hormone," is released when you physically and emotionally connect with the people you care about. It boosts our happiness by producing feelings of love, trust, and security.

We naturally boost our oxytocin levels when we do things like spend time with friends, meditate, and have sex. According to a 2015 study, couples who have sex at least once a week reported higher levels of happiness. That's largely due to the increase in oxytocin that sex triggers.

And you don't even have to go anywhere for the benefits of socialization. According to a 2021 study from Fordham University, even online interactions help. Researchers concluded that activities like attending a party or taking a fitness class over a Zoom video call made people less lonely, depressed, and suicidal.

I regularly use WhatsApp, FaceTime, and Zoom for video calls. I also travel to visit with friends and family who are open to company.

Increase your longevity and healthspan by moving your body every day, eating like the Mediterranean folk do, and spending time with people you care about. Prioritizing these habits could help you "almost forget to die," too.

If you want to take things even further, I share my top five ideas on living a longer, healthier life, based on the latest clinical research and technology, in my special report 5 Ways to Grow Your Healthspan, Starting Now.

Retirement Millionaire subscribers can read it here. If you're not already a subscriber, click here to learn more (and get details on my No. 1 retirement stock).

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 28, 2023