Americans have an average life expectancy of 78.7 years. That’s shorter than almost all other high-income countries.
The U.S. ranks 31st in the world for lifespan. We’re behind even small, poorer countries like Cyprus and Malta.1
We live shorter lives even though we spend far more on health care per person than any other country in the world. We spend more than double the amount of many other rich countries.2
A new study suggests that it’s not our health care that is the problem. It’s our lifestyles. And the research reveals simple things you can do to improve your odds of living longer and healthier.
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed two large studies containing decades of health data. They looked at the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 78,865 women for 34 years. And they examined the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which followed 44,354 men for 27 years.5
It is the largest analysis ever examining the impact of lifestyle factors on longevity.
The researchers discovered that five key lifestyle factors make people live longer:
- Eating a Healthy Diet.
- Exercising Regularly.
- Keeping a Healthy Body Weight.
- Not Drinking Too Much Alcohol.
- Not Smoking.
None of these are big surprises. We’ve known for decades that these behaviors are healthy. But what is surprising about the findings is the extent to which these factors boost lifespan.
Researchers found that someone who started these behaviors, at age 50 could expect to extend their life by more than a decade. Women who adopted all five gained 14 years of life on average. Men gained 12 years.
The most dramatic effect of adopting the five factors came against America’s number one killer, heart disease. People who adopted all five were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles. And they were 65% less likely to die from cancer.
The more low-risk factors a person had, the longer their projected life span. So, a 50-year-old woman with four healthy factors could expect to live to 89. Those with three of the healthy factors could expect to live to 87, and those with two to 84.
Best Ways to Incorporate Healthy Lifestyle Habits
If you’re wondering about the best way to adopt these lifestyle changes, try this:
- Go Paleo. We’ve told you before about the health benefits of a paleo diet. It emphasizes protein-rich, low-carb foods. It normalizes blood sugar, optimizes brain function, and controls inflammation.
- Do HIIT. Health Watch readers know high-intensity interval training is the best and most effective way to exercise. It’s a great workout without being overly strenuous to your heart. It keeps you at a healthy weight and takes only a few minutes each day. To learn how to do HIIT, go HERE.
- Say goodbye to BMI. The body mass index is deeply flawed when it comes to determining if you’re a healthy weight. Millions of people considered overweight or obese by the BMI are actually perfectly healthy. A better way to find out if you’re at a healthy weight is waist size measurement. It should be half your height or less. So a 6-foot tall man should have a waist size of 36 inches or less. A 5-foot-4 woman’s waist should not exceed 32 inches.
- Drink the right type and amount of alcohol. Stick to two glasses or less of wine a day. Make it a robust variety, like Tannat or Cabernet Sauvignon. They have the most profound health benefits compared to other types of wine and liquor.
- Just say no to anti-smoking drugs. If you are trying to quit smoking, avoid the smoking cessation drugs Chantix and Zyban. A recent study shows they don’t work. And they can have serious side effects. Behavioral counseling is safer and more effective. To find out more, go HERE.
Follow these five rules to live your healthiest – and longest – life.