Researchers have discovered 5 simple factors that have been linked to living roughly a decade longer
- In a new study, researchers pinned down five factors that appear to be strongly linked with a significantly longer life.
- All five of the factors are related to lifestyle and include things like diet and exercise.
- Women in the study with the strongest adherence to all five factors lived an average of 14 years longer than their female peers who adopted none of them; men lived an average of 12.2 years longer.
The road to a long life is littered with hype. There are the usual suspects, like pricey pills and supplements, as well as the peculiar, such as infusions of blood from young mice or standing-room chambers pumped with sub-zero temperatures.
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In a new study published in the journal Circulation, researchers at the American Heart Association pinpointed five lifestyle factors that appear to be linked with a significantly longer lifespan, judging by the outcomes of two long-term studies that involved roughly 123,000 adults.All of the factors are things that can largely be changed, like quitting smoking or eating healthier. In the studies, women who adopted all five of the factors enjoyed roughly 14 extra years of life on average compared with their peers who adopted none of them; men got an average of an extra 12.2 years.
Keep in mind that these are averages. These conclusions do not mean that suddenly putting all five factors into practice will lengthen your life by a decade. All we can say definitively, judging by this research, is that people with these traits tend to live longer than people with few or none of them. With that in mind, here are the five factors:
At least 30 minutes of daily cardio exercise
"Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart," said a recent article in the Harvard Medical School blog "Mind and Mood."
Most research suggests that the best type of aerobic exercise for your mind is anything you can do regularly and consistently for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, bringing it in line with the latest study findings.
Eating like a Mediterranean
But a growing body of research suggests that a meal plan focusing on vegetables, protein, and healthy fats has key benefits for losing weight, keeping the mind sharp, and protecting the heart and brain as you age. The new study bolsters that research, finding that eating this way is also linked with living longer.
Like drinking, dietary habits were self-reported, but the study's general findings are supported by dozens of previous studies. Researchers looked at aspects of previously agreed-upon standards for healthy eating, including high intakes of vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains; healthy fats like those from fish and olive oil; and low intakes of red and processed meats, sugary beverages like soda and juice, and trans fats and salt.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
So it's no surprise that the latest study found evidence that abstaining from cigarette smoking for life was linked with living longer. But if you've already smoked, the research still has good news: both quitting and cutting back were also linked with positive outcomes related to life expectancy."Smoking is a strong independent risk factor of cancer, diabetes mellitus, CVDs, and mortality," the researchers wrote, "and smoking cessation has been associated with a reduction of these excess risks."
Sticking to a healthy body weight
Drinking no more than 1 to 2 alcoholic beverages a day
These studies can be problematic because they include small research samples or rely on people to accurately self-report their drinking habits. Another big problem is that what most of us consider "moderate" drinking is really far from it: according to the National Institutes of Health, moderate drinking is one drink per day for a woman and two drinks per day for a man. Up to a third of Americans regularly exceed these levels.That said, some previous research has linked such "moderate" drinking with beneficial outcomes, including a lower risk of certain diseases like diabetes.
The new study again relied on people's self-reported alcohol habits, so they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, the researchers concluded that one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men was linked, on average, with a longer life.
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