A new study that came out today in the journal Circulation pinpoints five healthy habits that can prolong people’s life expectancy by at least a decade. These five simple lifestyle changes revolve around common-sense factors and include kicking the smoking habit, sticking to a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, committing to regular exercise, and drinking only in moderation.
Although you may think you’ve heard it all before, the new study emphasizes that even a small change can go a long way and points out just how much this handful of realistic lifestyle goals can impact people’s longevity.
According to government statistics, 50-year-old Americans have a life expectancy of another 30 to 33 years, CBS News reports. However, the study revealed that adhering to these simple lifestyle changes can add another 14 years to women’s lives and increase the male life expectancy by 12 years.
“Our findings have significant public health implications because they demonstrate the great potential of diet and lifestyle changes in improving life expectancy,” said senior researcher Dr. Frank Hu, chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Americans have one of the shortest life expectancies among the world’s high-income countries, the authors state in their paper. In fact, in 2015, the United States ranked 31st for life expectancy at birth among all the countries in the world, notes CBS, citing the World Health Organization.
Only 8 percent of Americans are currently following the healthy habits underlined in the study, research co-author Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of medicine at Harvard, told CNN.
The research highlights that these simple changes in our daily routine require a minimal effort and are easy to adhere to. For instance, it only takes 30 minutes of brisk walking a day to meet the moderate exercise demand and reap the longevity benefits associated with regular exercise.
Similarly, moderate drinking translates into a one drink per day limit for women and a daily alcohol intake of maximum two drinks for men. Furthermore, the research defined healthy body weight as having a Body Mass Index score between 18.5 and 24.9.
In addition, a diet was considered healthy if it managed to score in the top 40 percent of the Healthy Eating Index, which assesses people’s diet based on the consumption of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, fish, poultry, and healthy-fat sources, such as olive oil and nuts.
The research, spanning more than three decades, followed approximately 123,000 U.S. health professionals aged 30 and 75 at the outset. The study participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their health and lifestyle habits every two to four years, Time reports.
Over the course of the study, the researchers documented more than 42,000 deaths, of which nearly 14,000 were due to cancer and around 10,700 were attributed to cardiovascular disease.
The results revealed that people who followed all five of the healthy habits described in the study were 74 percent less likely to die during the follow-up period than those who adhered to none of them.
At the same time, the findings showed that sticking to the five lifestyle changes decreased the risk of death from heart disease or stroke by 82 percent, and the likelihood of cancer-related death by 65 percent.