Some would say that folks are living longer than ever before these days. We’d argue that, as a population, people may be lasting longer but not living longer. In other words, while life expectancy rates remain at a high level, quality of life in the latter portion of most people’s lives is severely lacking.
The good news is that science is showing quite clearly that the quantity and quality of the years we live may largely be in our hands. In a recent study published in the journal Circulation, Harvard researchers identified the five healthy habits that are important to maintain through adulthood to add over a decade of quality living to life.
Eating a healthy diet. While there’s constant debate about what constitutes the “best” diet, some things that virtually every nutritionist and dietitian agree on is that a healthy diet is one that is made up of predominantly whole, minimally processed foods (little to no processed junk) in amounts that are appropriate for your goals, activity levels, and body type.
Exercising regularly. The mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of regular physical activity cannot be overstated. For longevity, these researchers said that we need about 30 minutes per day of moderate or vigorous activity (including brisk walking).
Maintaining a healthy body weight. Generally speaking, if you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight tends to be a by-product. While we don’t like to put too much emphasis on a number on the scale, there’s no denying that maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of several diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Drinking alcohol only in moderation. The health benefits — such as heart health, blood pressure, and inflammation — of moderate alcohol consumption have been consistently reported. Keep in mind that “moderate” means one drink (a 5-ounce glass of wine) for women and a two drinks per day for men. And, no, that’s not an average over the course of a week.
Not smoking. Smoking is bad news for virtually every aspect of health, as it is a literal firestarter for oxidative stress and inflammation. While never smoking is ideal, quitting lowers the risk for every risk factor associated with smoking.
Honestly, there’s probably not many surprises there. Most of us “know” what healthy looks like. What’s news to use is that healthy habits can have such a profound impact on how long and well you live, and YOU are in the driver’s seat.
If you’re already doing these things, great; keep it up! If you’re not, it’s NEVER too late. The study also showed that it’s not an all-or-nothing thing. While doing all five things regularly tacked on the most vitality and length to life, even doing one, two, three, or four of the habits consistently increased life expectancy in a step-like manner.