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Healthy Habits That Could Add More Than a Decade to Your Life

The five habits that can add more than a decade to your life

Each factor alone reduces the risk for cancer and heart disease but collectively could reduce the overall risk of death by 74-percent.

The researchers performed the analysis in the hope of understanding why the U.S., which spends more on healthcare as a proportion of GDP than any other nation, ranks 31st in the world for life expectancy at birth.

For women this meant on average an extra 14 years of life, and for men an extra 12 years, with the combination of all five healthy behaviors linked with the most additional years of life gained.

The new study used data from 78,865 women over 34 years and from 44,354 men over 27 years.

To what extent could a focus on prevention help to raise life expectancy in the USA, which finds itself averaging 79.3 years, compared with Japan's 83.7?

They found that women who did not follow any of the five low-risk factors had a life expectancy of 29 years at age 50, compared with 43.1 years for those who adopted all five.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have identified five lifestyle factors that could add more than 10 years to your life, namely healthy diet, never smoking, moderate-to vigorous physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day), moderate alcohol consumption, and a healthy body mass index.

The research, spanning more than three decades, followed approximately 123,000 US health professionals, aged 30 and 75 at the outset.

The study, the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of adopting low-risk lifestyle factors on life expectancy in the United States, is published online in the journal, Circulation.

Researchers studied 34 years of data from nearly 79,000 women and 27 years of data from about 44,000 men who participated in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. "But the surprising thing was how huge the effect was", said Meir Stampfer, a co-author on the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

He said it's important for people and policymakers to know the possible implications of lifestyle changes on life expectancy. The population-attributable risk for non-adherence to five low-risk factors was 60.7, 51.7, and 71.7 percent, respectively, for all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality.

Funding for the study came from grants UM1 CA186107, R01 HL034594, R01 HL60712, R01 HL088521, P01 CA87969, UM1 CA167552, and R01 HL35464 from the National Institutes of Health.