According to America’s Centre for Diseases Control’s (CDCs), National center for health statistics, Americans have a shorter life expectancy compared to all other high-income countries. Recent data reveals that people in the U.S. can expect to live an average of 78.7 years. That puts Americans well behind the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) average life expectancy of 80.3 years. (The OECD includes a group of developed countries like Canada, Germany, Mexico, Japan and France.)
A study from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which took 30 years to complete, reveals that five critical habits can increase your lifespan by a decade. For the study, researchers reviewed 34 years’ worth of data from 78,000 women and 27 years’ worth from more than 44,000 men.
The results showed a correlation between healthy behaviors and cardiovascular issues. Women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer when compared to those with the least healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly 30-year study period.
“This study underscores the importance of following lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. Population,” said Frank Hu, author of the study and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School.
It really is never late to start a healthy lifestyle – and now a new study revealed you can add more than 10 years to your life with some simple changes.
Here are five science-backed ways to help you live longer and healthier:
1. Maintain a healthy diet
It is not easy to follow a regular diet control and eat a healthy diet. It may be tempting, for example, to grab a quick bite at a fast-food chain on your lunch break or order takeout during late nights at the office. A poor diet can lead to problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. A good diet, according to the researchers, contains minimally processed, whole foods and grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and any natural source of protein (i.e., fish and beans). Fruits and vegetables have important vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals as well as fiber to help regulate your metabolism. They can also protect against certain diseases. Experts recommend eating at least five servings daily.
2. Exercise daily
It should be absolutely necessary to set aside time to exercise everyday. Just a small amount of daily exercise can extend life expectancy by as much as 4.5 years according to research. The main idea is to avoid inactivity, which can be a problem for those who have a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity has been shown to help maintain healthy body weight, maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, promote psychological well-being and reduce the risk of certain diseases. People who live in Blue Zones, the longest living people in the world, typically do not go to the gym but work out daily by gardening, raising farm animals, walking, and doing other chores. So walking, running, going to gym, playing outdoor games, aerobics and doing other physical activities will help you to maintain a good health and longer lifespan.
3. Drink alcohol in moderation
There is mixed evidence about whether moderate alcohol consumption affects longevity, but consuming one to two glasses of red wine daily is common in many of the Blue Zone countries. Studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption can lower blood pressure and blood sugar and increase HDL or good cholesterol. However, consumption of alcohol more than the recommended quantity can be very harmful for the body. It can add to your waistline and increase the risk of several cancers (i.e., breast, colon, esophagus) thus affecting your longevity.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
According to the Harvard study, controlling your weight lowers your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular risk factors and many forms of cancer — including prostate and breast cancer. Try to maintain a BMI of 18 to 25. Avoid sugary diets, carbohydrates and fats and add more fruits and vegetables in your diet to control your weight.
5. Avoid smoking
The health risks of smoking have become increasingly apparent, there’s been more effort in warning people about the dangerous side effects. Smoking can affect your lungs and are responsible for various forms of cancers.
The Harvard study specifically noted that people who smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes lived longer.