A new study has shown that these five factors can have a big impact on your life expectancy.
The study, published in the online journal Circulation, looked at the lifestyles in over 500,000 cases and found that smoking, body weight, exercise, alcohol intake and diet can affect your life expectancy by up to 12 years for men, and 14 for women.
While these factors have already been linked to positive health benefits, Harvard University research scientist and study co-author Yanping Li hopes seeing how much it can extend your life will help propel people to change their habits.
“The healthier the lifestyle, the longer the life expectancy,” Li explained. “Each healthy lifestyle [factor] is associated with around 2-3 years prolonged life expectancy.”
The study, which looked at American life expectancy, was done in the hopes of finding out why the U.S. was ranked 31st in life expectancy in the world, according to the World Health Organization, with an average life expectancy of 79.3 years old.
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In comparison, Canada ranks 12th with a life expectancy of 82.2 years.
The study also found that less chronic illnesses like cancer were found in those who adhered to these five principles.
Dr. Dexter Shurney, president-elect of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, said that while the study isn’t groundbreaking, it’s important to keep these things at the top of mind.
“Ninety per cent of Type 2 diabetes [is] actually due to lifestyle,” Shurney explained.
He also said that things like exercise and a healthier diet have major impacts on how your body fights off cancer cells.
It’s all about prevention rather than treatment.
“Prevention of chronic diseases … through promoting of healthy lifestyle will help to increase the life expectancy in a more efficient way than treatment, the patients in their last few years of life,” Li explained.
Here are more details about the 5 factors that lead to longer life expectancy.
The person who’s never smoked lives the longest, while a smoker is more at risk than a former smoker.
“We also showed the dose-response relationship between the dosage of smoking and life expectancy,” Li said, offering an example. “If it is too hard for the smokers to quit, at least smoke less. Even smoking one less cigarette helps.”
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The healthiest people in the study had a BMI between 18.5 and 22.9.
30 minutes of moderate exercise per day is ideal.
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The healthiest people in the study were light to moderate drinkers, with one glass of wine a day for women, and one to two a day for men.
But Li said he’s not recommending non-drinkers to start, but instead, “if you drink, keep it moderate.”
Dr. Shurney explained that there may be other reasons that prevent people from drinking, which could affect their overall health.
“There is some evidence that even moderate amounts of alcohol are probably not helpful in the sense of risk for cancer,” he said.
Experts said this is the most important one. Shurney said those with a whole food plant-based diet are more likely to ward off diseases like cancer or Type 2 diabetes.
Diet was measured based on the Health Eating Index, which values quality of food (e.g. fresh over processed) instead of amounts of food groups consumed.
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