There seems to be an insatiable appetite for advice on how to improve one’s health and longevity, so it is not surprising that news items that claim to purport scientific research on the benefits of this or that diet or exercise or lifestyle choices appear regularly. The advice can sometimes be contradictory and thus can be confusing and lead people to tune out altogether, which is unfortunate. Since my personal motto is to act in moderation in all things, I tend to ignore recommendations that require taking extreme steps,
This article suggests eight lifestyle choices that can prolong life by as much as 20 years. Many of the recommendations seem like common sense, which appealed to me.
The study found that people were likely to live longer when they made only minor changes, even if they delayed embracing the healthier habits until middle age.
The research, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston, drew on data from questionnaires and medical records collected between 2011 and 2019. The records covered more than 700,000 US veterans aged from 40 to 99 who were enrolled in the Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program.
Nguyen and her colleagues analysed the data to identify which lifestyle factors were associated with a longer lifespan. Medical records collected for the project showed that 33,375 participants died during the study period.
The team added that, when combined, the lifestyle factors could have a substantial impact on life expectancy, increasing a person’s lifespan by decades.
“Men and women who adopted eight therapeutic lifestyle factors could gain 23.7 or 22.6 years of life expectancy, respectively, at age 40 years compared to those with no adopted lifestyle factors,” the authors write.
Being physically inactive, using opioid drugs, and smoking had the strongest associations with heading to an early grave: participants with these lifestyle factors had a 30%-45% higher risk of death over the study period, the researchers found. By contrast, stress, binge-drinking, poor sleep hygiene and poor diet were associated with about a 20% higher risk of death in the period studied.
The observational nature of the research, however, means the work cannot prove a causal link between the factors identified and differences in lifespan.
So what are the eight recommendations that could extend your life?
- Eat well.
- Avoid cigarettes.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Be physically active.
- Manage stress.
- Avoid binge drinking.
- Be free from opioid addiction.
- Have positive social relationships.
Some of them (avoiding cigarettes, binge drinking, and opioids) are straightforward while others may require fleshing out. What does eating well entail? What constitutes a good night’s sleep? How much physical activity is optimal? How can one manage stress and develop positive social relationships?
These results were presented at a meeting and presumably the filling in of details will be done in the published paper.