- A new study has found that eight lifestyle habits are linked with a longer life.
- Adopting these habits by middle age could add decades to a person’s lifespan.
- Each habit alone could lengthen life, but combining them all multiplies the effect.
- Experts say this is because the top killers, like heart disease and cancer, are linked to poor lifestyle habits.
- To make lasting changes, it is important to be consistent and intentional in your choices.
These habits include:
- never smoking
- being physically active
- refraining from binge drinking
- practicing good sleep hygiene
- eating a healthy diet
- keeping stress low
- engaging in positive social relationships
- avoiding addiction to opioids
People who take up these habits by middle age may live significantly longer than those who don’t, the authors say.
Men who follow all eight lifestyle factors by age 40 could live up to 24 years longer than those who do not adopt any of these healthy habits
Women, on the other hand, could see an increase of 22.6 years.
They state that each of the factors taken independently can help reduce the risk of premature death.
However, when taken together, the effects on longevity are multiplied.
To study how lifestyle choices are related to lifespan, Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen and co-author Yanping Li gathered data from medical records and questionnaires from over 719,147 United States military veterans who took part in the Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program between 2011 and 2019.
Adults aged 40 to 99 were included in the study. There were 33,375 deaths recorded during follow-up.
When they analyzed the data, the duo of researchers found that not being active, using opioids, and smoking had the largest effect, with these factors being linked with a 30% to 45% greater risk for death during the course of the study.
Poor sleep hygiene, unhealthy diet, binge drinking, and stress each created about a 20% increase in risk.
A lack of positive social relationships was associated with a 5% increase in risk.
However, as each protective habit was added to people’s lifestyle, the researchers saw a decline in the mortality rate per 1,000 person-years, with those who adopted all eight seeing a 13% reduction in all-cause mortality. This effect did become smaller as they grew older but was still statistically significant.
The researchers stated in a press release that these findings show how various lifestyle factors can contribute to diseases that lead to early death and disability.
They additionally indicate how making better choices can extend a person’s healthy years of life.
“It is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” Nguyen said.
He did note that this type of study cannot prove that adopting these habits can increase lifespan. However, they are consistent with other similar studies, he added.
Tariq Hafiz, M.D., FACC, ABIM, Medical Director, Cardiologist & Educator at Pritikin Longevity Center, said, “As a clinical and preventive cardiologist, I strongly believe that adopting these comprehensive lifestyle factors is the foundation of both the primary and secondary prevention of many chronic diseases i.e., cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, etc.”
He further noted that the benefits are probably achieved by preventing oxidative stress and inflammation from occurring.
Hafiz explained that cardiovascular disease and cancer are the leading causes of death, with the modifiable risk factors for heart disease being well known. Namely, these risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, mental stress, visceral obesity, unhealthy diet, and a sedentary lifestyle, he said.
He also said that tobacco use is a major risk factor shared by several categories of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease; stroke; lung, bladder, and esophageal cancers; chronic lung disease; and diabetes.
“Chronic diseases are associated with most morbidity and mortality and hence responsible for much of the health care cost and financial burden,” concluded Hafiz.
As an example of how you can make your approach personal to your own needs, she pointed to a new mother, who might temporarily not be able to reduce her stress or improve her sleep, but could still tackle areas like nutrition and social satisfaction.
“Consistency is key to influencing longevity, so being realistic and intentional is of consequence,” she added.
She further stressed the importance of doing testing to obtain feedback about how your lifestyle changes are working. “You can’t address what you do not know,” she explained.
One way to do this could be going through a service like Tally Health, she said, which offers personalized action plans and testing. However, you can also work with your own personal physician.
Cuellar added that wearables, phone apps, and community support can also be helpful when it comes to making new habits. For example, you could use fitness trackers, apps that track your drinking habits, or group fitness classes to help you stay on stay on course with your goals.
“Often what works best for me is when my coaches and friends hold me accountable when I make a plan to exercise with them,” she said. “That makes it much harder for me to cancel my exercise routine when my days are super busy.”