Adopting five healthy habits can help increase life expectancy

Image for representational purpose only

Researchers at Harvard University used lifestyle questionnaires and medical records from 123,000 volunteers to understand how much longer people lived if they followed a healthy diet, controlled their weight, took regular exercise, drank in moderation and did not smoke.

Men and women who had such healthy lives were 82% less likely to die of heart disease and 65% less likely to die of cancer compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles, over the roughly 30 years of the study.

In comparison to those who lived an unhealthy lifestyle, men who adopted all five habits saw an extra 12 years added to their life expectancy, while women gained an extra 14.

The U.S. ranked 31st in the world for life expectancy in 2015, and the study suggests while the USA health system does a great job in terms of drug discovery and disease management, a greater emphasis on prevention would do a great deal to improve the health and life expectancy of Americans.

When the scientists calculated average life expectancy, they noticed a dramatic effect from the healthy habits.

Heart disease and stroke are major contributors to premature death in this country, with 2,300 Americans dying of cardiovascular disease each day, or one death every 38 seconds.

Given that the habits of a healthy lifestyle are well known, the mystery is why we are so bad at adopting them, said Stampfer.

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Researchers studied 34 years of data from nearly 79,000 women and 27 years of data from about 44,000 men who participated in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The results of the study suggest that following these habits can extend your life by a decade.

For undertaking the study, the researchers estimated that life expectancy at age 50 for men and women who didn't adopt any low-risk lifestyle factors were 25.5 years and 29 years respectively.

Every year around 100,000 people in the United Kingdom die as a result of smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses. Only 8% of the general population followed all five healthy habits.

"We should not forget, however, that many high-risk health behaviors are also linked to economic inequalities and deprivation and so are inseparable". "Certainly, maintaining a reasonable body-mass index is a great way to protect oneself against the development of diabetes", Vaughan said.

"This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the USA population", commented senior author Frank Hu.

They concluded that poor lifestyle is a major driving force behind early deaths in the USA, although the study authors said the findings are also applicable to many western countries like the United Kingdom, where seven in 10 deaths are fuelled by diet and lifestyle factors according to the Global Burden of Disease study.

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