Everyone wants a long, healthy life, but are we doing what is necessary to actually get there? A new study conducted by Harvard suggests that if American adults integrate five specific habits into their daily lives, their life expectancy will be increased by more than a decade.
The recommended five habits are:
1. Don’t smoke
2. Eat a healthy diet
3. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, daily
4. Maintain a healthy weight
5. Consume alcohol only in moderation
The research, published last month in the journal Circulation, says that adopting these five healthy-habits could prolong your life expectancy at age 50 by a little more than 14 years of woman and a little more than 12 years for men.
“The general population just needs to adopt a small step forward toward a healthier lifestyle,” says the lead researcher, Yanping, Li, MD, PhD, a scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Dr. Li said that even “modest improvement” in lifestyle could have a “big impact” in longevity.
The study looked at 123,219 Americans over the course of a 34 year period. During that time, 42,167 participants died, with 13,953 of them as a result of cancer and an additional 10,689 due to heart disease. The study found that people who stuck to the five lifestyle recommendations were 74 percent less likely to die during the study compared with those who didn’t follow any of the five habits. Within that subset, participants were 82 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 65 percent less likely to die from cancer.
The list of five recommendations might be simple, but adhering to it is easier said than done. According to the American Heart Association, Americans have a shorter life expectancy than most other high-income nations like Canada and Japan. Heart disease is a major cause of death in the US with 2,300 people dying prematurely from heart-related issues every day.
But Li says that it’s never too late to put healthy habits into action.
“The big takeaway is that each one of us can modify our risk of corny heart disease or having a heart attack or suffering a stroke,” he adds. “It’s almost completely in your control to make healthy lifestyle changes, to take charge.”