Healthy habits can lengthen life

“Drinking and smoking hasn’t affected me. I look pretty good for 40.”

Physical activity is one of five healthy lifestyle factors that can lower your risk for several diseases and lengthen your life. Have you heard the advice to exercise, choose a healthy diet, keep a lean weight, never smoke, and limit alcohol?

Researchers wanted to find out whether people who follow this advice live longer than those who don’t. So, they compared lifespan and other data from thousands of adults with all five of these healthy habits to those without.

People in the healthy habits group got at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. They ate the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats. And they limited salt, sugary drinks, trans fat, and red and processed meats. They also limited alcohol. Women had no more than one drink each day and men no more than two drinks. They also maintained a normal weight and didn’t smoke.

The people in the other group didn’t exercise, have a healthy diet, or limit drinking. They smoked and were overweight.

Based on the results, the researchers estimated that a 50-year-old woman who had all five habits would live, on average, to age 93. In contrast, if she didn’t have any of these habits, she would live on average to age 79.

For a 50-year-old man, the average lifespan was about 88 years old with healthy behaviors and only 76 years without.

“This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. population,” says Dr. Frank B. Hu of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, senior author of the study.

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