A new study involving over 700,000 US veterans indicates that by embracing eight healthy lifestyle habits in middle age, individuals can potentially add decades to their lives compared to those with few or none of these habits. The research provides compelling evidence that our daily lifestyle habits can significantly affect our life expectancy.
The eight habits are: being physically active, being free from opioid addiction, not smoking, managing stress, eating a healthy diet, not drinking alcohol, maintaining good sleep and having positive social relationships.
Decades of life from a healthy lifestyle
The study estimates that men who adhere to all eight habits by age 40 could expect to live an average of 24 years longer than men without these habits.
For women, the presence of all eight healthy lifestyle habits in middle age was associated with an estimated 21-year increase in life expectancy compared to women lacking these habits.
Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, a health science specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, expressed surprise at the extent of the potential benefits associated with lifestyle habits.
“We were really surprised at how much could be achieved by adopting one, two, three or all eight lifestyle factors,” Nguyen explained.
“Our research findings suggest that a healthy lifestyle is important for both public health and personal well-being. The earlier the better, but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s or 60s, it’s still beneficial. “
The focus of the study
For the study, the researchers analyzed data obtained from medical records and questionnaires collected from 2011 to 2019 involving 719,147 participants from the Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program.
This large-scale, nationally representative study included adults aged 40 to 99 and accounted for 33,375 deaths during its follow-up period.
Bad lifestyle habits
Significantly, the analysis revealed that certain lifestyle habits had a profound impact on longevity. Low physical activity, opioid use and smoking constituted the greatest risks, each associated with an approx. 30-45% higher risk of death during the study period.
Meanwhile, lifestyle factors such as chronic stress, overeating, poor diet and inadequate sleep hygiene were each associated with an approximately 20% increase in the risk of death. The lack of positive social relationships correlated with a 5% increased risk of death.
Implications of the study
The findings underscore the critical role that lifestyle factors play in contributing to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, conditions that often lead to premature disability and death.
Furthermore, the findings help quantify the extent to which healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of such diseases and promote longevity.
“Lifestyle medicine is aimed at treating the underlying causes of chronic diseases rather than their symptoms,” Nguyen said, adding that it offers a potential path to curbing the escalating health care costs generated by prescription drugs and surgical procedures.
The estimated increase in life expectancy from adopting the eight healthy lifestyle habits decreased slightly with age but remained statistically significant. Thus, even older individuals can potentially benefit from adopting healthier habits. “It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” Nguyen said.
More about healthy lifestyle habits
Healthy lifestyle habits can encompass many different areas of life, and by adopting them, your health and well-being can significantly improve. Here are some to consider:
Eat a balanced, nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods and limit your intake of sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
Get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week. This can be anything from brisk walking to running, cycling, swimming, weight training or team sports.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per day. night. Good sleep is essential for your body to heal and rejuvenate, and a lack of sleep can lead to a number of health problems.
Regular medical checkups can help catch potential health problems early. Be sure to schedule regular checkups with your doctor.
Lifestyle habits and hydration
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. The exact amount you need may depend on your size, activity level and the climate you live in. However, a general rule of thumb is to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. day.
Learn how to manage stress effectively. This may involve practicing mindfulness or meditation, making time for relaxation and leisure activities, or seeking professional help if needed.
Healthy lifestyle means no smoking
Avoid smoking and limit your consumption of alcohol. Both of these can lead to serious health problems.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase your risk of various health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Pay attention to your mental health. If you’re feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.
Limit screen time
Too much time in front of screens (TV, computer, smartphone, etc.) can lead to health problems. These include eye strain, poor sleep and a sedentary lifestyle. Set limits for yourself and make sure you take regular breaks.
Strong social connections
Maintain strong social connections. Social isolation can negatively affect both your physical and mental health. Make an effort to stay in touch with friends and family.
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