Everybody knows that if you want to live a long time, you’ve got to maintain your health. But how exactly do you do that? Never fear: A recent Harvard study has determined five healthy habits that may actually add up to 10 years to your life. None of the habits should come as a surprise — they’re probably all things you learned in school, from your parents, or from PSAs on television. But it turns out those health clichés you’ve heard contain a whole lot of truth.
For a recent study published in the journal Circulation, a team of Harvard researchers examined around three decades of health history data from 44,354 men and 78,865 women. Then, they looked at how five specific habits might impact how long those individuals would live. For those who didn’t adopt any of these habits, they estimated that at age 50, a woman would live roughly 29 more years and a man would live roughly 26 more years. But for those who adopted all five habits, women were expected to live about 43 more years and men were expected to live about 38 more years. That’s 14 and 12 more years, respectively. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Want to live longer yourself? You’d be wise to adopt these five habits:
1. Don’t smoke.
If you haven’t started smoking, good job! Keep it up. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is the primary cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. It accounts for more than 480,000 deaths every year. The good news is that fewer people are smoking every year because fewer people in the younger generation are starting and more people are quitting. Be smart and don’t start!
2. Don’t drink too much.
Excessive or binge drinking is definitely not good for your health. According to the CDC, it can lead to both obvious health problems like cancer and heart disease, and less-obvious ones like car crashes, violence, and risky behaviors. They recommend keeping your alcohol consumption to two drinks a day for men and one a day for women (and you can’t cheat by saving that all up and going wild on the weekend.) You needn’t cut out alcohol entirely if you don’t want to, however. Research is showing that moderate drinking may actually be healthier than no drinking at all.
3. Maintain your weight.
Specifically, the researchers recommend maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters, or by using an online calculator. BMI isn’t perfect — it’s an old measure that can go awry if you’re very short, very tall, or very muscular — but researchers still use it as a rough rule of thumb. A healthy BMI is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.
4. Eat a quality diet.
Eating a well-balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods will help you get the vitamins and minerals you need without negative effects on your BMI. What’s a well-balanced diet? While it may seem like nutrition recommendations change all the time, medical experts have mostly been saying the same thing all along: Eat whole grains, fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy, and lean meats while limiting your fat, sugar, and salt intake. There’s a reason the diet based on this recommendation has been rated the best for eight years running.
5. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Adults who are physically active are healthier and less likely to develop many chronic diseases than adults who aren’t active — regardless of their gender or ethnicity.” They break down this 30-minutes-a-day figure even further, saying that for “substantial health benefits,” adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking for 150 minutes a week (roughly 20 minutes a day), vigorous-intensity exercise like jogging for 75 minutes a week (25 minutes a day if you do it three times a week), and muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights or using resistance bands two or more times a week. According to researchers from Brigham Young University, that level of physical exercise can slow aging within your cells. Pretty cool, right?
Make the change today! I am still trying to change…
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