Who wouldn’t want to live up to 24 more years? For this to happen, it would only be necessary to adopt eight healthy lifestyle tips at age 40, according to a new, unpublished study analyzing data from 700,000 US veterans.
It states that people who adopt these eight habits in midlife can expect to live much longer than those with few or none. According to the results, presented at Nutrition 2023, the annual meeting of the American Nutrition Society, it is expected that men who fulfill the eight habits at age 40 will live an average of 24 years longer than those who do not fulfill any of them. For women, having all eight healthy factors was associated with a prediction of 21 additional years of life.
But, What happens if you start at age 50? No problem, you could still extend your life by up to 21 years, according to the study. And at 60? You will keep winning almost 18 years if you adopt the eight healthy habits. “There’s a 20-year window in which you can make these changes, from your 40s to your 60s, both gradually and all at once,” explains Xuan-Mai Nguyen, lead author of the study and a health science specialist with the Boston Healthcare System’s Million Veterans Program.
“The sooner the better, but even if you only make a small change at age 40, 50 or 60, it’s still beneficial,” he says. “We also did an analysis to see if we eliminated people with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, cancer and the like, changed the result. And the truth is that no, “he said. “So, if you start with chronic diseases, making changes is still useful, “he details.
It is true that meeting the eight requirements to live longer “had a synergistic effect, a kind of added boost to extend lifebut any small change made a difference,” says Nguyen. Adding just one healthy behavior to a 40-year-old man’s life gave him 4.5 more years of life. Add a second led to seven more years, while adopting three habits prolonged life by 8.6 years. Following them all added up to almost a quarter century of extra life.
The women also experienced “big jumps in their life expectancy,” according to Nguyen, though the figures did not match those of the men. Adopting just one healthy behavior added 3.5 years to a woman’s life, while two added eight years, three added 12.6 years, and adopting all healthy habits extended a woman’s life by 22.6 years.
And what are those magical healthy habits? Nothing you haven’t heard before: exercise, eat a healthy diet, reduce stress, sleep well and encourage positive social relationships. On the other hand, don’t smoke, don’t drink too much, and don’t become addicted to opiates. “This is not out of reach, it’s actually something achievable for the general population,” she advises.
What healthy habit adds more years to our life?
Additionally, the study was able to rank the eight lifestyle behaviors to see which provided the greatest boost in longevity and placed them in a classification. Number one on the list is the exercise. According to Nguyen, adding that healthy behavior produced a 46% decreased risk of death from any cause compared to those who didn’t.
“We looked at whether they were doing light, moderate or vigorous activity compared to doing nothing and sitting on the couch,” Nguyen said. “The people who lived the longest did 7.5 metabolic equivalent hours of exercise a week. To give you an idea, if you can walk up a flight of stairs without losing your breath, that’s four minutes out of 7.5″. Therefore, more vigorous activities seem better.
Don’t get addicted to opioids was the second factor which contributed the most to a longer life, reducing the risk of premature death by 38%, according to the study. In third position is never having used tobacco, which reduces the risk of death by 29%, according to the study. If a person had been a smoker but no longer, it didn’t count: “We did it to be as strict as possible,” Nguyen said. However, experts say that quitting smoking at any point in life has significant health benefits.
In fourth place, the study concludes that managing stress reduces mortality premature in 22%. It follows that adopting a plant-based diet would increase the chances of living longer by 21%. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a vegetarian or vegan. The key is to stick to a healthy plan, like the Mediterranean diet, full of whole grains and leafy greens.
In sixth position, it is recommended to avoid drunkenness or, according to the study, drink more than four alcoholic drinks a day. This healthy lifestyle habit reduces the risk of death by 19%, according to Nguyen. Sleep wellthat is, between seven and nine hours a night without suffering from insomnia, reduces premature mortality from any cause by 18%.
Lastly, being surrounded by positive social relationships favors longevity by 5%, according to the study. “It may not sound like much, but it’s still a decrease in terms of all-cause mortality,” Nguyen stresses, continuing: “Everything helps, whether you choose to be physically active or make sure you’re surrounded by positive social support.” In fact, in recent months a large study confirmed that you can die of loneliness.