AGING
May 3, 2018

Secrets of Life Extension

People over 50 who develop these five habits tend to live years longer than those who don't.

Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have five life-extending habits for you. They're nothing you haven't heard of before, but the Harvard team found that people added at least 10 years to their lives when they followed these healthy habits:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t drink too much.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Adopting all five habits added the most years to life.

    Using information from two long-term studies of over 120,000 men and women, researchers were able to take a close look at how these lifestyle habits affected a person’s life expectancy. Over the roughly 30 years that the study lasted, those people who made all five habits part of their daily lives decreased their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 82 percent and from cancer by 65 percent.

    At age 50, women could expect to live 29 more years and men, 25.5 more years. Following all five healthy lifestyle habits increased the life expectancy by 14 years for women and 12 years for men. Following any of them increased life expectancy somewhat, but adopting all five added the most years to life.

    It is difficult to get adults in the U.S. to follow a healthy lifestyle, Frank Hu, senior author of the study, points out. In 2015, the U.S. ranked behind 30 other countries for life expectancy. To improve longevity in the U.S. population, he says, not only do more adults in the U.S. have to pursue these healthy habits, we will need to create public policies that emphasize healthy food and more health-friendly environments, such as walkable neighborhoods, to promote healthy lifestyle habits.

    So here's a game plan to add years to your life and life to your years:

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Keep your BMI (body mass index) between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • Participate in moderate to vigorous exercise at least five days a week.

  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation — no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. One drink is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
  • Eat a healthy diet, one that has plenty of fruits and vegetables, little red or processed meat and sugar.
  • What do you need to work on?

    The study is published in Circulation.

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