A new study has found that just by developing five habits, you can add an estimated 14 years of life expectancy.

The five things are: eating a healthy diet, not smoking, not drinking too much alcohol, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy body weight — the last one typically comes as a natural consequence of the others. Researchers also found that study participants who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles.

The study analyzed data from 78,865 women followed over 27 years and 44,354 men followed over 34 years. All participants were from the US, and over the course of the roughly 30-year study period, researchers tracked their health and lifestyle habits, focusing especially on the five points mentioned above.

A healthy life

Five habits were identified to have a great impact on human health and longevity:
– not smoking;
– eating a healthy diet;
– regularly exercising (30+ minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity);
– keeping a healthy body weight (18.5-24.9 BMI);
– moderate alcohol consumption (5-15 g/day for women, 5-30 g/day for men).

Each individual component of a healthy lifestyle showed a significant association with risk of total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular mortality — each factor added approximately 2.5 years of life expectancy.

Researchers found that who didn’t adopt any of the low-risk lifestyle factors, the life expectancy at 50 years was 29 years for women and 25.5 years for men. But for those who adopted all five low-risk factors, life expectancy at age 50 was projected to be 43.1 years for women and 37.6 years for men. In other words, women gained an average life expectancy of 14 years, and men gained 12 years. But there was some very bad news.

“This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. population,” said Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “However, adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low. Therefore, public policies should put more emphasis on creating healthy food, built, and social environments to support and promote healthy diet and lifestyles.”

Despite being arguably the wealthiest country in the world, America continues to struggle with its health. Both men and women having a significantly lower life expectancy than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

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The U.S. ranked 31st in the world for life expectancy in 2015, and the study suggests while the US health system does a great job in terms of drug discovery and disease management, a greater emphasis on prevention would do a great deal to improve the health and life expectancy of Americans.

Researchers suggest a few resources to help keep you healthy:

The study “The Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population,” was published in Circulation. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047

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