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Five habits that could add over 10 years to your life

Researchers have quantified the effect a healthy lifestyle can have on life expectancy 

Rachel Hosie
Tuesday 01 May 2018 11:09 BST

Harvard University researchers have found that adopting five healthy habits as an adult could add over a decade to your life.

By changing their lifestyle, women can increase their life expectancy by 14 years and men by 12.

The five habits are: eating healthily, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, not drinking too much alcohol and not smoking.

It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but the study proves just how much of an effect these healthy habits can have.

What’s more, people who live healthy lifestyles were found to be 82 per cent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 per cent less likely to die from cancer than those who were less healthy over the 30 year period of the study.

Overall, healthier individuals had a 74 per cent lower risk of premature death.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, involved researchers studying 34 years of data on 78,865 American women and 27 years on 44,354 men.

The researchers point out that at 79.3 years, Americans have a lower life expectancy than almost all other high income countries. And so they’d hoped that the study could quantify the effect of lifestyle on longevity in the US.

The findings show that not smoking, keeping a healthy BMI, being active for at least 30 minutes a day, keeping alcohol intake moderate (eg about one small glass of wine a day) and eating healthily can have a huge effect on life expectancy.

According to the study, if a 50-year-old woman adopts all these healthy habits, she can expect to live for another 43 years. If she does none of them, however, she will likely only live for another 29 years. For 50-year-old men, the healthy habits could add 38 years, compared to 26 if none are adopted.

“This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. population,” said Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.

“However, adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low. Therefore, public policies should put more emphasis on creating healthy food, built, and social environments to support and promote healthy diet and lifestyles.”

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