APR 30, 2018 6:36 AM PDT

Healthy Lifestyle Adds Years to Your Life

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Life expectancy has improved for Americans over the past 50 years, but researchers involved in a new study theorize that life expectancy could be extended even more with healthier lifestyle habits. From the American Heart Association, scientists show how a healthier life can help you live longer.

In the new study, researchers focused on five specific lifestyle factors as pivotal for increasing life expectancy: healthy diet, regular exercise, no smoking, healthy body weight, and moderate alcohol consumption.

This research is based on the observation that Americans have a shorter life expectancy than people from other high-income countries, largely due to disproportionately high amounts of heart disease and stroke in the United States. In 2014, the life expectancy of the average American was 79, while it was only 63 in 1940. However, scientists from the study theorize that the present-day life expectancy would be even higher if Americans had healthier lifestyle habits.

The new study involved a data analysis from two ongoing studies of dietary, lifestyle, and medical information from American adults. Researchers combined this with data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Specifically, they were looking at the impact of the five specific lifestyle factors on lifespan. With a follow-up time of about 30 years, researchers saw 42,167 deaths total, with 13,953 from cancer and 10,689 from heart disease.

Overall, individuals with all five healthy habits were 74 percent less likely to die within the follow-up period. For each individual behavior, researchers observed a direct association with reduced risk of premature death, like from cancer or heart disease. For women, maintaining these five behaviors could extend life expectancy at age 50 by 14 years; for men, 12 years.

"Quantifying the association between healthy lifestyle factors and longer life expectancy is important not only for individual behavioral changes but also for health communicators and policy makers," explained study author Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD. "It is critical to put prevention first. Prevention, through diet and lifestyle modifications, has enormous benefits in terms of reducing occurrence of chronic diseases, improving life expectancy as shown in this study, and reducing healthcare costs."

The present study was published in the journal Circulation.

Source: American Heart Association

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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