Dear Dr. Walt, what do you recommend to people to help them live better and longer? From, Looking for Durability in Delaware.
The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine reports that up to half of all premature deaths in the US are attributable to behavioral and other preventable factors—including modifiable habits such as tobacco use, poor diet, and lack of exercise. In fact, in 2018, Harvard researchers reported their evaluation of five specific healthy habits:
Their findings were astounding. Fifty-year-old women who followed all five habits lived an average of fourteen years longer than women who did not. For men, it was twelve years of additional life expectancy. That’s about a fifty percent increase!
Not only that but in 2020, these same researchers reported these five habits substantially extended the years a person could live disease-free.
But what if you can’t do all five?
The researchers have some more great news: “Women who practiced four or five of the healthy habits over the next 20 to 30 years had an additional 10.6 years of disease-free living compared to women who adopted no lifestyle changes. When broken down by disease, the healthier women gained an average of eight years free of cancer, ten years with no cardiovascular disease, and 12 years without diabetes.”
They added, “Men who practiced four to five healthy behaviors gained 7.6 years longer life expectancy; an average of six more years without cancer, almost nine more years free of heart issues, and over ten years without diabetes.”
Even more impressive was the finding that if a person diagnosed with a disease during the study only adopted four of the five habits, half of these people, when diagnosed with cancer, lived an additional 23 years!
Among those who didn’t change, half only survived another 11 years. They found the same pattern for heart disease and diabetes.
The lead researcher said, “This is a positive health message because it means healthy lifestyle habits not only prolong life but also improve the quality of life and reduce sufferings related to chronic diseases.”
A colleague of mine has suggested a simple formula for good health: 0-5-10-30-150. Zero tobacco; five servings of fruit and vegetables a day; 10 minutes of silence, relaxation, meditation, or prayer a day; a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30; and 150 minutes of exercise per week.
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