Doing these five basic things can help you live longer, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published in The American Heart Association’s Circulation in late April.
U.S. women and men who followed these 5 things: healthy food, exercise, healthy weight, moderate alcohol and no smoking – maintained the healthiest lifestyles over a 30-year period and were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer than their unhealthy counterparts.
The American Heart Association isn’t always about healthy prevention. For instance, a cardiologist called their new cholesterol guidelines a “disgrace” and gift to Big Pharma because they put millions of Americans on the “statins list.” However, for this study, prevention in the form of a healthy lifestyle was key.
First, some sobering facts:
- Heart disease is the number #1 killer in the U.S. (and globally, too).
- Americans have a shorter average life expectancy–79.3 years–than almost all other high-income countries.
- The U.S. ranked 31st in the world for life expectancy in 2015.
- Heart disease killed 597,000 Americans in 2011 alone.
Harvard Chan researchers and colleagues looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 women and 27 years of data from 44,354 men participating in, respectively, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
For study participants who didn’t adopt any of the low-risk lifestyle factors, the researchers estimated that life expectancy at age 50 was 29 years for women and 25.5 years for men. But for those who adopted all five low-risk factors, life expectancy at age 50 was projected to be 43.1 years for women and 37.6 years for men. In other words, women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, and men who did so gained 12 years, compared with those who didn’t maintain healthy habits.
Compared with those who didn’t follow any of the healthy lifestyle habits, those who followed all five were 74% less likely to die during the study period. The researchers also found that there was a dose-response relationship between each individual healthy lifestyle behavior and a reduced risk of early death, and that the combination of all five healthy behaviors was linked with the most additional years of life.
Over the course of nearly 34 and 27 years of follow-up of women and men, respectively, a total of 42,167 deaths were recorded, of which 13,953 were due to cancer and another 10,689 were due to cardiovascular disease.
“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.”
The 5 Tenets
1.) Eat Healthy
There’s no real guide on this but you know the routine! You may enjoy reading Blue Zones, to see what the world’s oldest living people eat.
2.) Exercise Regularly
This means 30 minutes of any kind of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days a week. Dancing, cleaning and walking fall under that category so find something you love and move it! Did you know – exercise increases good gut bacteria.
3.) Maintain Healthy Body Weight
Unfortunately, this is relative. The medical community offers no surefire formula or roadmap for how to do this. Researchers used the BMI standards (body mass index) which are problematic. The BMI is a simple height-to-weight ratio that is easy to follow but doesn’t account for body types. For instance, most football players and Olympians would be considered obese under the BMI standards. Essentially, you will want to stay out of the obese range and keep a trim belly area. Their formula for best BMI is: (18.5-24.9 kg/m2)
Instead of focusing on “calorie counting” or fad diets, you will want to focus on eating as many nutrition-dense, whole foods as possible, and emphasizing home-cooked or raw vegetables and fresh fruit. Keeping obesogenic chemicals like BPA and phlalates out of your life is a very important factor when it comes to weight. Your body care products should be considered a part of your diet since they go directly into your body from your skin. Ideally, if you can’t eat it, it probably shouldn’t go on your skin.
4. Moderate Alcohol Consumption
If you are sensitive or addicted to alcohol, you will want to remove it from your life, as it offers no benefit, only toxicity. However, there are times when most people want to enjoy a drink with friends. The research consensus is this: no more than one standard drink for women, and no more than two for men.
This is a “standard” drink. It means roughly one 12 oz beer/malt liquor or a 5 oz glass of wine, or one serving of spirits (1.5 fl oz). Research is typically based on “grams” of alcohol but it’s too difficult to figure that out when you’re at a party!
While people attribute drinking red wine with the Mediterranean Diet, the healthy people there do not drink to get drunk, but simply enjoy 5 oz of wine with meals as more of a cultural tradition. Five ounces really isn’t much!
5. Stop smoking (this is how you do it!)
There’s no doubt that smoking destroys health and does nothing but drag us down. Quitting smoking is way easier than you think. When you’re positive that you want to quit smoking, simply read Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. This magic book breaks the psychological need to smoke and changes the beliefs that keep people hooked. Once someone is done reading it, they simply throw out their pack and stop smoking forever. It worked for me, another Natural Blaze member, Ellen DeGeneres and millions of other people! It’s a book that saves lives.
“Adopting a healthy lifestyle could substantially reduce premature mortality and prolong life expectancy in US adults,” the study concluded.
Obviously, there are other things that are important for health such as the connections we make with others, getting sun and fun, and following our life purpose. But the basic biological foundation never seems to change.
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Contributed by Heather Callaghan of NaturalBlaze.com.
The Natural Blaze team is dedicated to the path of natural health and wellness. But we’re not just believers, we’ve experienced the healing properties of natural remedies first hand. That is why we are so deeply passionate to report natural health news, share wellness tips, and provide proven natural products to you.