Living longer disease-free into old age is not just genes and luck. A large Harvard study reveals how we can work for it and how we can know if we are on track.
A 30-year Harvard study revealed the five habits that may increase your life by 10 years or more. Read on to learn those 5 healthy habits.
According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, Americans have a much shorter life expectancy than almost all other high-income countries. The research data revealed that people in the U.S. are expected to live an average of 78.7 years. That places Americans well behind the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average life expectancy of 80.3 years. (The OECD comprises a group of developed countries such as Canada, Japan, Germany, Mexico, and France.)
Harvard researchers have crunched a mountain of data and used some very complex analysis techniques to discover how some people have been able to prolong their lives and stretch their well-being deep into old age.
This 2018 study from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed five habits that could prolong an individual’s life by up to a decade or more. For the said study, researchers analyzed records from more than 110,000 American doctors and nurses whose health habits had been documented in fine detail every two years for up to 34 years.
The results found that healthy behaviors and cardiovascular issues are correlated: Women and men who followed the healthiest lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer than those with the least healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly thirty-year study period.
Five habits could add up to ten years or more to a person’s life
Maintain a healthy diet
A recent study reported in “The Lancet,” a British journal, showed that poor diets lead to one in five deaths. It can also cause problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.
According to the researchers, a healthy diet comprises minimally processed whole foods and grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and any natural source of protein (i.e., fish and beans).
This isn’t as easy to maintain as it sounds, particularly when dealing with your hectic work schedule and social & family commitments. It may be tempting, for instance, to grab a quick bite – at a fast-food chain during your lunch break or order takeout during late nights in your office.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. To motivate you, think of the Virgin Group founder who eats muesli and fruit salad for breakfast daily, which is not a bad one to follow. If you really want to change your eating habits, it may help to talk to your doctor & check with a nutritionist.
It’s definitely necessary to set aside some time to exercise. Even the world’s most successful business leaders, such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Sheryl Sandberg, include physical activity in their daily routines.
A study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) showed that just small amounts of daily exercise could increase life expectancy by as much as four & half years. The main thing is to avoid physical inactivity, which can be harmful to those who have desk jobs. A few suggestions: keep thirty minutes of gym time before or after work, use a standing desk, and take calls or do meetings while walking.
According to the NCI, physical activity has been found to help maintain healthy body weight, maintain healthy muscles, bones, and joints, nurture psychological well-being and lower the risk of certain diseases, including some cancers.
Maintain a healthy weight
As per a Harvard study, weight control considerably decreases cardiovascular risk factors and lowers the risks of diabetes mellitus & breast cancer.
Though “healthy weight” varies from person to person, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggests that a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is optimal. (You may calculate your BMI here.)
According to Fitness Buffhq, you should weigh yourself often, of course, not in an obsessive way. A study reported in the International Journal of Obesity indicated that those who monitored their weight less frequently were more likely to gain weight. Make it a point to view the scale as a tool to stay within the healthy weight range.
The health risks of smoking are becoming increasingly apparent. As a result, Governments are also putting more effort into warning people about smoking’s harmful effects.
Kick out this most unhealthy habit, and your body will thank you in the long run. Former president Barack Obama was one successful leader who quit smoking using Nicorette gum. He knocked off the habit while still in office and claimed to be “tobacco-free” in 2017.
The worst habit for your health
Whereas all five habits are important, Fitness Buffhq emphasizes how important it is to stop smoking. He says, “If you are a smoker, the single best thing you can do, is quit it.”
He continues, “Never smoked” is considered the best health habit since even if you stopped some time ago, you would still have some residual risk of heart disease or cancer.
“Though you cannot change the past, if you stop smoking right away, the benefit will continue to accumulate over time,” says Fitness Buffhq.
Limit your alcohol intake
It’s hard to escape the thought of alcohol — it shows up at social outings, conferences, happy hour, and so much more. Some people may even depend on alcohol as a stimulant in social settings. But there are many hazards. For instance, it can increase the risks of lifestyle diseases and some cancers (like breast, colon, and esophagus).
Many people find it difficult to moderate their alcohol intake — particularly if you’re one who struggles with alcohol addiction.
As a healthy habit, the study supported a moderate alcohol intake of up to one 175ml glass of wine per day for women and up to two for men.
However, something surprising happened to teetotalers. Women who didn’t drink at all lost but followed the other four habits lost almost one disease-free year. If they drank moderately, their chances went up significantly.
Whereas the longest disease-free life expectancy was among those who drank moderately, this dropped in those who had more than 2 or 3 drinks per day.
Interestingly “Never drinkers” had a life expectancy between moderate and heavy drinkers.
Within the study, the authors stressed that current guidelines do not urge non-alcohol drinkers to begin just for the sake of preventing cardiovascular disease.
Keep in mind that avoiding alcohol altogether puts you in good company; Warren Buffett, an 89-year-old billionaire, is a well-known abstainer.
Fitness Buffhq says that if you can’t manage all five healthy habits, you should not feel discouraged from managing the ones you can. The number of extra disease-free years increases with each additional healthy habit. Aim for maintaining at least four of the five habits diligently: never smoking, drinking moderately, having a balanced diet, staying slim, and doing at least thirty minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, the USA, obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”