Research: How Our Habits Affect Longevity and Quality of Life
The study reminds us that maintaining healthy habits — eating right, exercising regularly, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling how much alcohol you drink — can help us live longer. Writes about it Times.
In a 2018 study, an international group of researchers led by Harvard scientists found that adopting five healthy habits can increase life expectancy by 14 years for women and 12 years for men:
- follow a diet high in plants and low in fat;
- to train at a moderate to active level for several hours a week;
- maintain a healthy body weight;
- no smoking;
- drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men.
To monitor this data, the researchers wanted to know how many of these extra years were healthy, without the three common chronic diseases: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. And the study says that a healthy lifestyle can really help increase life expectancy without disease. The results show that women can increase life expectancy without illness after 50 years by about 10 years, and men can add about eight years more than people who do not have such habits.
“It's important to look at life expectancy without disease, because it has important consequences in terms of improving quality of life and lowering overall health care costs,” says Dr. Frank Hu, chairman of the Harvard Nutrition Department and author of the article.
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To clarify these patterns, the researchers analyzed data collected from more than 111 American women and men aged 000 to 30 years. Participants answered questions about their lifestyle habits and their health every two years from 75 to 1986.
Based on the responses, each participant was assigned a “lifestyle” from 0 to 5, with higher scores reflecting better compliance with healthy recommendations. Researchers then tried to compare these estimates with how long participants lived without heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.
Women who reported having four or five healthy habits lived an average of 34 years more without these diseases after 50 years, compared to 24 years for women who said they did not have any healthy habits. Men who reported having four or five lifestyle habits lived an average of another 31 years without illness after 50 years, while those who did nothing lived an average of another 23 years after 50 years.
Hu says that none of the five factors were as important as the others; the benefits of saving people from illness and prolonging life were the same for all five. In addition, evidence suggests that the contribution of each factor is additive — the number of years of life without disease has increased with every additional healthy habit that people have followed.
And since all study participants were over 30 years old, the results also show that “it's never too late to change,” says Hu. “It is always better to stick to healthy lifestyle habits as early as possible, but even adopting them relatively late in life will still have significant health benefits in the future.”
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