Making five healthy lifestyle choices could prolong your life by longer than 10 years, according to a new study.
The habits are recognizable — eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, drinking only in moderation, not smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight — but the study sought to quantify the exact extent to which they could impact a person’s health and longevity. The findings, published in the journal Circulation, suggest that adhering to these five behaviors could extend a woman’s life expectancy at age 50 by 14 years, and a man’s by 12.
The researchers analyzed data from two large studies of U.S. health professionals, using a sample of almost 79,000 women and more than 44,300 men. The people filled out detailed questionnaires about their health and lifestyle habits every two to four years, with researchers monitoring their adherence to the five behaviors highlighted by the study.
People were considered to have a healthy diet if they fell into the top 40% of the study group, based on their Healthy Eating Index score; to drink moderately if they had a drink or fewer per day for women, or two drinks a day or fewer for men; to have a healthy body weight if their body mass index fell between 18.5 and 24.9; to exercise regularly if they were active for at least 30 minutes a day; and to not smoke if they had never picked up the habit.
The researchers tracked the group for up to 34 years. During that time, more than 42,000 people died. Almost 14,000 of these deaths were due to cancer, according to the study, and almost 10,700 were due to cardiovascular disease.
Those who followed all five of the healthy habits, however, were 74% less likely to die during the follow-up period than those who followed none of them. Beyond that general risk reduction, they were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer.
Those decreases in risk correlate to more than 10 years of extra life, according to the paper — a huge leap, especially in the U.S., where life expectancy lags significantly behind that of many other wealthy nations and is even declining modestly.
The results underscore the importance of making small but impactful changes to your health and daily routines — and of following the wellness advice you’ve been hearing for years.