5 Lifestyle Habits That Could Increase Life Expectancy

At an average of 79.3 years, Americans have a shorter life expectancy when compared to other high-income nations. But new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston has outlined healthy lifestyle factors that may be able to increase this figure.

The study is the first in-depth analysis of how low-risk lifestyle factors may impact life expectancy in the United States. The findings were published in the journal Circulation on April 30.

Researchers identified the following lifestyle habits that may help add more than a decade to life expectancy if practiced through adulthood:

1. Eating a healthy diet

Healthy eating has been a struggle for many in the country, affected by factors such as access, budget, and fast food dependence. A good diet includes an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, fats, and carbohydrates in addition to drinking enough water every day.

2. Exercising regularly

At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day are necessary as per guidelines and numerous studies. Examples of physical activities that can be taken up every day include brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, playing sports, dancing, taking the stairs etc.

3. Maintaining a healthy body weight

Being obese or overweight can contribute toward a variety of serious health risks from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to cancer. While the problem affects nearly the whole world, the highest level of obesity among children and young adults can be found in the U.S. 

4. Moderating intake of alcohol

A recent study found that going beyond one standard drink a day (or 100 grams per week) could lead to a higher risk of disease as well as a drop in life expectancy. Binge drinking also poses a serious threat by damaging internal organs, increasing tolerance, and potentially causing an addiction.

5. Avoiding smoking

It has been stated that people of all ages have continued to underestimate the dangers of smoking. Accelerated aging, lung cancer, heart disease, pregnancy complications, and weakened bones are just a few of the risks of cigarette smoking. This habit can also affect non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

The researchers looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 U.S. women and 27 years of data from 44,354 U.S. men. It was found that Americans who led the healthiest lifestyles were 82 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 percent less likely to die from cancer.

Women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, while men gained 12 years, compared with those who didn't maintain healthy habits.

"However, adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low," said lead author Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School. "Therefore, public policies should put more emphasis on creating healthy food, built, and social environments to support and promote healthy diet and lifestyles."