New research published by the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that adults in the US who follow 5 healthy lifestyle habits may live more than a decade longer compared with people who follow none of the 5 habits. These 5 habits are:
Starting at age 50, men in the study were estimated to have an average life expectancy of 14 years and women were estimated to have an average life expectancy of 12 years when they followed all 5 habits. The study was published April 30, 2018 in the AHA journal Circulation.
The study authors point out that the US ranks 31st in the world for life expectancy among those born in 2015, even though it’s one of the richest countries in the world and spends more on health care per person as a percent of gross domestic product than any other country. According to the authors, the US healthcare system focuses mainly on drug discovery and disease management, even though a greater emphasis on prevention could go a long way toward controlling the most common and most expensive diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers looked at data of 123,219 people enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1980 to 2014 and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 2014. They used information on death rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate the impact of the 5 healthy lifestyle habits on how long people lived. Among the findings:
To compare diets among the study participants, researchers created a scoring system that gave higher scores to people who reported eating more foods considered healthy and fewer foods considered unhealthy. Healthy foods included vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. Unhealthy foods included red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fat, and sodium. The American Cancer Society recommends:
Participants also received the highest health scores if they never smoked, if they got more than 30 minutes per day of moderate or vigorous activity (including brisk walking), if they kept their body weight within a body mass index (BMI) range of 18.5 – 24.9, and if they limited alcohol to less than 15 grams a day for women and less than 30 grams a day for men. That calculates to about 1 drink a day for women and 2 for men.
The American Cancer Society website offers a wealth of information on how to help reduce your cancer risk by making healthy choices such as eating right, staying active, and not smoking.
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Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population. Published April 30, 2018 in Circulation. First author Yanping Li, PhD, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.