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Study States 8 Lifestyle Habits Can Add Up Over Two Decades To Your Life 

According to a new unpublished study that analyzed data from US veterans, adding eight healthy lifestyle habits to your life between the ages of 40 and 60 could extend your life by up to 24 years, depending on what age you begin implementing the habits. 

Even on the older end, the study states that if you start implementing the habits at age 60, you could still potentially gain 18 years to your life. 

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“There’s a 20-year period in which you can make these changes, whether you do it gradually or all at once. We also did an analysis to see if we eliminated people with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, cancer and the like, does it change the outcome? And it really didn’t, so, if you start off with chronic diseases, making changes does still help,” said lead study author Xuan-Mai Nguyen, a health science specialist for the Million Veteran Program at the VA Boston Healthcare System. 

The habits are relatively well-known: eat a healthy diet, exercise, maintain low stress levels, keep positive social relationships, get a full night’s sleep, don’t smoke, don’t drink in excess, and avoid hard drugs/opioids. While these habits may seem rather obvious, it’s important to understand just how much of a difference they can make in your life, and it’s encouraging to know that it’s never too late in life to make the changes. 

“The earlier the better, but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s or 60s, it still is beneficial. This is not out of reach — this is actually something attainable for the general population,” Nguyen said

The study was presented on Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, Nutrition 2023, and it showed how the study looked at the lifestyle behaviors of around 720,000 military veterans between the ages of 40 and 99. 

“Adding just one healthy behavior to a man’s life at age 40 provided an additional 4.5 years of life. Adding a second led to seven more years, while adopting three habits prolonged life for men by 8.6 years. As the number of additional lifestyle changes climbed, so did the benefits for men, adding up to nearly a quarter century of extra life,” Nguyen said, according to CNN

Nguyen went on to explain how women saw major changes in life span as well. “Adopting just one healthy behavior added 3.5 years to a woman’s life, while two added eight years, three 12.6 years and embracing all the healthy habits extended a woman’s life by 22.6 years.”

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“Doing all eight had a synergistic effect, sort of an added boost to extend your life, but any small change made a difference,” Nguyen said.

“An important strength of this analysis was that the population was highly diverse by race, ethnicity, and SES (socioeconomic status),” said senior study author and leading nutrition researcher Dr. Walter Willett.

The study also ranked all eight habits in order from which could give the largest increase in longevity, the following percentages were all taken from the study itself: 

  1. Exercise: “We looked at whether they did light, moderate or vigorous activity compared to not doing anything and just sitting on the couch. People who lived longer did 7.5 metabolic equivalent hours of exercise a week. Just to give you a baseline — if you can walk up a flight of stairs without losing your breath, that’s four minutes of the 7.5,” Nguyen said.
  2. Staying away from/not becoming addicted to opioids can reduce the risk of an earlier death by 38%.
  3. Never using tobacco can reduce the risk of death by 29%.
  4. Managing stress and reducing your daily stress levels can reduce early death by 22%.
  5. Eating a plant based diet could increase your chances of living a longer life by 21%.
  6. Avoiding excessive drinking and binge drinking, having more than four alcoholic drinks per day, could reduce your risk of death by 19%.
  7. Getting enough sleep every night, at least seven to nine hours a night with no insomnia, can reduce early death from other causes by 18%.

Having and maintaining positive social relationships can help life longevity by 5%. “Five percent may seem small, but that’s still a decrease in terms of all-cause mortality. Every little bit helps, whether you pick physical activity or make sure you’re surrounded by positive social support,” Nguyen said.

Heart Healthy Diet

5 Healthy Habits That Can Help You Live A Decade Longer: Study Suggests

In a massive study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researchers and health experts alike studied the impact of healthy lifestyle habits and life expectancy. The individuals involved in conducting the study had access to medical data that provided a huge pool of subjects with decades worth of medical records to go through. When all was said and done researchers were able to draw conclusions using data from over 120,000 participants; 34 years worth of records from 78,000+ women, and 28 years worth of records from 40,000+ men. 

The researchers specifically focused on five areas of life/health: diet, physical activity/exercise, body weight, smoking, and alcohol intake. The data regarding these five categories was collected through a series of regularly administered questionnaires that would be validated through a multitude of actual medical records; all participants completely consented to the study. These five particular categories were chosen because, based on the death rates in America, these five areas pose the largest risk of premature death when attributed with unhealthy habits. 

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Obviously, researchers also had to take every individuals specific genetic make up into consideration as well, so they took data on age, ethnicity, medication use, and other health conditions as well. Within the study this is how researchers defined “healthy habits” within each of the five categories. 

  1. Healthy diet, calculated based on the reported intake of healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, and unhealthy foods like red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fat, and sodium.
  2. Healthy physical activity level, which was measured as at least 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity daily.
  3. Healthy body weight, defined as a normal body mass index (BMI), which is between 18.5 and 24.9.
  4. Smoking, “Healthy” here means never having smoked.
  5. Moderate alcohol intake, measured as between 5 and 15 grams per day for women, and 5 to 30 grams per day for men. Generally, one drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. That’s 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

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Once the study was concluded, researchers determined that healthy habits make a huge difference in terms of life expectancy, and not in the obvious sense. The analysis showed that women who met the criteria for all five healthy habits lived, on average, 14 years longer than those who didn’t; for men it was a 12 year difference. If an individual didn’t meet the criteria for any of these healthy habits, they were much more likely to die prematurely from either cancer or cardiovascular disease; the two top causes of death in the world in terms of disease. 

Beyond these results, the study also concluded that if any of the subjects adopted just one of the healthy habits listed above their life expectancy would likely be prolonged by two years, regardless of gender, especially if they were over the age of 50. 

The experts behind this study want the individuals who observe the results to take away a very specific message. In America, our health care focus is too concentrated on fancy and expensive medications to combat deadly disease as opposed to ways of preventing those diseases in the first place. This isn’t the first time in which experts have stated that the best, and easiest, way to inspire the masses to adopt healthier lifestyle habits is through “public health efforts and policy changes.” 

While we wait for those systematic changes to occur, however, it’s never too late to make even the slightest of changes to our lifestyles to give us the best shot at living a long and healthy life. Start slow, as the data stated even one habit adoption can add two years to your life, so what are you waiting for?