- According to government statistics, the average 50-year-old American can expect to live another 30 to 33 years.
- But a new study claims that maintaining these five lifestyle habits could add about a decade to that: not smoking; eating healthy; exercising regularly; maintaining a normal weight, and drinking only in moderation.
- Senior researcher Dr. Frank Hu, chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, stated that their findings validate the great potential of diet and lifestyle changes in improving life expectancy.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, agreed that these 5 habits can empower everyone to make a difference, especially since they are realistic.
Moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day was enough – even brisk walking. Drinking in moderation meant no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men, and no more than one per day for women. A diet was considered healthy if it scored in the top 40 percent on the alternate healthy eating index. This standard scoring system gives points for eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, and “good” fats from sources like olive oil and nuts. Points are also given for minimizing sugar, sodium, and red meat.
Unfortunately, only 8 percent of U.S. adults have met all five goals in the previous years.
Now, these studies have followed over 123,000 U.S. health professionals since the 1980s, in which participants gave detailed information on their exercise activities, diets, and other lifestyle habits.
The Harvard team then looked into how the five factors figured into people’s longevity while government health data was used to estimate the factors’ impact on the U.S. population’s life expectancy.
The researchers found that on average, people who met all five goals were 74 percent less likely to die during the study period. They were also 82 percent less likely to die of a stroke or heart disease, and 65 percent less likely to die of cancer.
At the age of 50, U.S. women who maintained those habits are estimated to live another 43 years, while for men it’s about 38 more years.
The result was significantly lower for women and men who met none of those goals. They are estimated to live another 29 and 25.5 years, respectively.
While it all depends on how much willpower people have, Steinbaum also observed that not all Americans have equal opportunities to care for themselves. If you can’t afford healthy food or have no safe place to exercise, those “simple” lifestyle changes are not easy, making it a public policy issue as well.
“How can we make healthy food more accessible? How can we make sure people have places to be physically active?” she declared.
The complete results can be found online as published on April 30 in the journal Circulation.
Source: CBS News