Experts say exercising for 30 minutes a day plus not smoking or drinking excessively can increase your years without chronic health issues.
- Researchers say healthy lifestyle habits can add as much as a decade to your life span.
- The researchers identified five lifestyle factors as important, including diet, exercise, and maintaining a moderate body weight.
- Experts say the two most important things to avoid are smoking and developing overweight or obesity.
We’d all like to live a long time in good health.
Now a recently published study has concluded there are lifestyle factors that can increase your odds of reaching an older age without chronic health issues.
There’s been plenty of research on lifestyle choices, such as smoking, physical activity, drinking habits, weight management, and diet, that affect our overall life span and likelihood of experiencing chronic diseases.
However, few studies have looked at how a combination of these factors relate to a long life free of disease.
5 crucial health factors
The low-risk lifestyle factors used to calculate a healthy lifestyle score included:
- never smoking
- at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity
- moderate alcohol intake
- maintaining a moderate weight (defined as a BMI less than 25)
- a good quality diet
Keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle with low impact, tolerable physical exercise; a good, well-balanced, colorful diet; hydration; and an appropriate amount of sleep can do wonders to help maintain a positive mental outlook and physical state
Increasing your healthy life span
Years of life free from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes at age 50 was 24 years for women who followed none of the low-risk lifestyle factors.
It was 34 years for women who adopted four or five of the factors.
The life expectancy free of these chronic diseases was 24 years among 50-year-old men who followed no low-risk lifestyle factors.
It was 31 years for men who practiced four or five of these healthy habits.
While hypertension is the number one cause for death throughout the world, many lifestyle changes, such as better diet and exercise, can affect this diagnosis to varying degrees, especially based on regimen and adherence
Diet is key
Being selective in what you eat is one of the most important lifestyle factors.
Foods that are high in fiber have been studied extensively for the benefits that they provide when it comes to cardiovascular health, including blood pressure regulation.
These foods are plant-based and include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Additionally, legumes, such as beans, lentils, and peas, have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol level, and high blood pressure.
For those wishing to preserve heart function and health, Wood says they’d benefit from avoiding foods high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates.
It’s especially important to avoid these foods if you have high cholesterol. If you’re contemplating eating a food that is high in sugar, salt, or fat, your best bet is to choose something else
Optimizing caloric intake and reaching or maintaining a moderate weight and waist measurement into middle age are “the single most important ways to reduce risk for diabetes as well as participating in regular physical activity and avoiding smoking.
Smoking, obesity effects
According to the study, men who smoked heavily — defined as 15 or more cigarettes per day — and men and women with obesity (defined as BMI 30 or higher) had the lowest chance of disease-free life expectancy at age 50.
“We looked at five lifestyle factors: eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, not drinking in excess, not smoking, and being physically active. They’re all important. But for smokers, the most important thing for them to do, of course, is to stop smoking. For people who are obese, it’s important to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight,” Hu said.
Parrish agrees that not smoking is critically important.
“The one single thing anyone who smokes can do is simply quit and reduce risk of disease and death by double digits, which is seen through this study. The effect appears to be greater the longer an ‘ever-smoker’ remains no longer smoking,” Parrish said.
“In the first 1 to 10 years after quitting, the risk of heart disease and lung cancer drops, and by 15 years, the risk of each is near that of a nonsmoker,” she added.
The bottom line
New research finds there are five lifestyle factors that significantly increase the years you live without experiencing chronic health issues.
Study participants were followed for more than 20 years. Those who followed four or five of the healthy lifestyle choices significantly increased their healthy life span after age 50.
Experts emphasize that the most influential of these are not smoking and maintaining a moderate body weight.
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