The 5 lifestyle habits that could add a decade to your life

Scientists say that living a long life could be as simple as making a few changes to your daily routine.

Humans are always on the lookout for the secrets of a long and happy life, and experts have long analysed all manner of factors that could increase our time on Earth: from adopting a vegan diet and staying single, to drinking a glass of wine every day and keeping a positive mental attitude.

Now a new study claims it has calculated the five major pillars of a long lifespan, suggesting that if you adopt them early enough, they can add more than a decade to your life.

Researchers at Harvard University cross-examined lifestyle questionnaires and medical records from 123,000 study participants, over a 30 year period, to work out how much longer people could live if they made simple changes to their daily routines.

The study, which was published in the journal Circulation, found that participants who followed these healthy rules over the three decades had a dramatically higher average life expectancy than those who adopted none of them.

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. Researchers also found that women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer, in comparison to those with the least healthy lifestyles.

So what are the five habits you should be following?

1. Follow a healthy diet

Experts recommend having a diet that packs in items such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, while avoiding red meat, saturated fats and sugar. A good diet includes drinking lots of water while making sure you’re getting an adequate amount of the necessary vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and healthy fats.

2. Control your weight

Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the UK, and it can lead to serious health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Researchers suggested having a body mass index between 18.5 and 25 is ideal for good health.

3. Take regular exercise

The study experts suggested that both men and women should have at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day to stay healthy. Examples include running, walking, cycling, swimming and playing sports.

4. Drink in moderation

According to the NHS, regularly drinking more than 14 units a week risks damaging your health. The research concluded that women should have no more than one 150ml glass of wine a day, or two for men, to stay healthy.

5. Don’t smoke

Every year around 100,000 people in the UK die as a result of smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses. Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions, including lung cancer and coronary heart disease.

This is the first major study to analyse the impact of adopting low-risk lifestyle factors on life expectancy, and while the results may seem obvious, the American study found that just 8% of Americans currently followed all of their five golden rules.

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

Unsurprisingly then, researchers stressed that more needs to be done to warn people of the life-shortening effects of poor lifestyle habits.

“Adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low,” commented lead author Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School. “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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4th Jun 2018
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