I often joke that when we cover alternatives to medicine in MedShadow (which we do in nearly every article), the answer is almost always “diet and exercise.”
Well, here it is again. A new analysis of 2 decades-long studies has looked closely at the effects of 5 lifestyle habits that can extend a life more than 10 years!
Incorporating even 1 of the 5 “low-risk factors,” as the study calls them, would extend your life. The low-risk factors don’t cost money, but they do require you to participate fully in your own health.
5 Ways to Extend Your Life
1. Don’t Smoke
Never smoking is the measurement the researchers used, but you can’t change what’s already happened. If you smoke, stop.
Keep Your Weight at a Healthy Level
Your organs and joints weren’t designed to carry an extra 20 pounds. The study identified a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 as healthy.
Get Off Your Butt!
This is hard for people who work all day and have a television. I know once I turn on the TV at night, my physical activity is limited to blinking. So before you sit, get 30 or more minutes a day of whatever you want — ride a bike, take a walk, throw the ball for your dog. The study says “moderate to vigorous physical activity.”
Keep a Handle on Your Drinking
I watch this one most closely in my life. I like to have a glass of wine with dinner, so I never have one before or after to make sure I’m not overdoing it. The researchers call it “moderate alcohol intake.”
Don’t Eat Junk
The study called it “a high diet quality score (upper 40%),” and it is based on the Alternate Health Eating Index. Not surprisingly, it calls for eating a variety of whole foods, and it’s heavy on the veggies — and, sadly, potatoes and French fries don’t count.
What’s your reward for doing all this good stuff?
The researchers predict that women who are 50 years old and adopt all 5 “low-risk factors” will live 14 more years than women who don’t. Men who follow the 5 will outlive their noncompliant counterparts by 12.2 years.
The 2 studies that yielded these conclusions are the Nurses’ Health Study, which has been following more than 120,000 women continuously since 1976, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a male equivalent study including tens of thousands of men that started in 1986. Both are prospective cohort studies designed to identify trends in large populations over time.