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These 5 Simple Steps Could Add 14 Healthy Years To Your Life – I’m Following These 100% From Now On! Graphic © healthpowerboost.com. Background photo: Pixabay (PD)
Looking to increase your lifespan and “health span”? Sounds good to me. I’ve been taking notes from the well-known leading longevity expert Dr. David Sinclair.
While many people assume that life expectancy is mainly determined by our genetics, research suggests otherwise. Lifestyle and environmental factors like diet may play a much bigger role than most people realize.
According to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, adopting 5 simple lifestyle factors into adulthood may add up to 14 healthy years to your life.  The international team of scientists led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health claimed that sticking to a few healthy behaviors could prolong life expectancy and lower the risk of premature mortality in US adults.
Interestingly, although the amount of years they pack onto an average lifestyle is surprising, the 5 healthy habits themselves are not much of a surprise. They are:
• Not smoking
• Exercising regularly
• Keeping a healthy body-mass index
• Drinking in moderation
• Eating a healthy diet
If you just stick to the above, it’s now thought that on average you will live 14 years longer than those who don’t! The study suggests that these lifestyle habits are linked to reduced incidence of two leading causes of premature death, heart disease and cancer. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 697,000 people in the US died from heart disease in 2020—that’s a death every 34 seconds.  And according to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States after cardiovascular disease.  About 609,360 Americans are expected to die of cancer in 2022.
In a follow-up study to determine how many of the added years were disease-free, the researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that adopting the 5 lifestyle habits extended the disease-free life expectancy by up to 10 years. 
The Impact Of Healthy Habits On Longevity
David A. Sinclair, Ph.D. — a Professor in the Department of Genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School — claims that epigenetic information loss is the primary cause of aging.
Epigenetics involves environmental or lifestyle factors that can change how our genes work.  Epigenetic changes have been shown to switch genes on or off and potentially impact disease states. Studies show that some of the lifestyle factors identified in the longevity study—including tobacco smoking, obesity, diet, alcohol consumption, and physical activity—can modify epigenetic patterns. 
“The interventions that we know are good for us turn out to be the ones that slow aging. If you do these things, you generally have a slower biological clock,” Sinclair says.
The 5 Simple Steps To Live Over A Decade Longer
Making a few simple tweaks to your everyday life and sticking by them might hold the key to healthier and longer lives. And as the saying goes, “The Best time to start was Yesterday. The next best time is Now.”
1: Don’t Smoke
Research shows that cessation is beneficial at any age.  One study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that quitting smoking by age 35 could add up to 8.5 years to your life.  Another study in The Lancet suggests that smoking may triple your risk of premature death and shave off a decade of your life. 
2: Eat a Healthy Diet
The phrase “You are what you eat!” may be cliché, but it’s nonetheless true. Food has a profound impact on every body system. Whatever you eat could either increase your risk of disease and premature death or reduce it.
Being selective with your food goes a long way in promoting longevity. Healthier eating habits throughout your life could help you live a healthier, longer, and even happier life. 
3: Exercise Regularly
According to the CDC, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity could help prevent around 110,000 deaths yearly among US adults aged 40+. 
Regular physical activity has a significant impact on your immediate and long-term health. Adults who exercise and sit less can reduce their risk of disease, improve brain health, strengthen their muscles and bones, improve their ability to perform daily tasks, and manage chronic health conditions better.
4: Maintain A Healthy Body Weight
A 2022 study published in JAMA Network reports that people who are overweight in middle age are more likely to die younger than those with a “normal” body mass index (BMI).  Obese people have a higher risk of heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), and heart attacks.
The earlier you act, the more likely you are to correct the negative effects of obesity on longevity. It’s never too late to start eating healthier or exercising regularly.
5: Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Excessive alcohol use can take a toll on your body. It increases your risk of disease and premature death.  However, some studies suggest that moderate drinking may have the opposite effect. 
One study appearing in the Journals of Gerontology suggested that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The findings showed that men who drank wine had a 34% lower risk of early death than those who consumed spirits or beer. 
Longevity sometimes feels like it’s beyond our control. And while there are things we can’t control, the above healthy habits can put you on the path to a long life and guide you to a ripe old age.
And if adopting these 5 lifestyle habits feel overwhelming, you can start slow. You don’t have to tick off everything at once. Take small steps—just ensure they stick.
Here’s Dr. Sinclair explaining things in detail:
 Li, Y., Pan, A., Wang, D. D., Liu, X., Dhana, K., Franco, O. H., … & Hu, F. B. (2018). Impact of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancies in the US population. Circulation, 138(4), 345-355: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
 American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/facts-and-figures-2022.html
 Li, Y., Schoufour, J., Wang, D. D., Dhana, K., Pan, A., Liu, X., … & Hu, F. B. (2020). Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study. bmj, 368: https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.l6669
 Simmons, D. (2008). Epigenetic influence and disease. Nature Education, 1(1): https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/epigenetic-influences-and-disease-895/
 Alegría-Torres, J. A., Baccarelli, A., & Bollati, V. (2011). Epigenetics and lifestyle. Epigenomics, 3(3), 267-277: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3752894/
 Gellert, C., Schöttker, B., & Brenner, H. (2012). Smoking and all-cause mortality in older people: systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of internal medicine, 172(11), 837-844: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22688992/
 Taylor Jr, D. H., Hasselblad, V., Henley, S. J., Thun, M. J., & Sloan, F. A. (2002). Benefits of smoking cessation for longevity. American journal of public health, 92(6), 990-996: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447499/
 Pirie, K., Peto, R., Reeves, G. K., Green, J., Beral, V., & Million Women Study Collaborators. (2013). The 21st century hazards of smoking and benefits of stopping: a prospective study of one million women in the UK. The Lancet, 381(9861), 133-141: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3547248/
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/resources-publications/benefits-of-healthy-eating.html
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
 Khan, S. S., Krefman, A. E., Zhao, L., Liu, L., Chorniy, A., Daviglus, M. L., … & Allen, N. B. (2022). Association of body mass index in midlife with morbidity burden in older adulthood and longevity. JAMA network open, 5(3), e222318-e222318: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2790100
 Movva, R., & Figueredo, V. M. (2013). Alcohol and the heart: to abstain or not to abstain? International journal of cardiology, 164(3), 267-276: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22336255/
 Di Castelnuovo, A., Costanzo, S., Bagnardi, V., Donati, M. B., Iacoviello, L., & De Gaetano, G. (2006). Alcohol dosing and total mortality in men and women: an updated meta-analysis of 34 prospective studies. Archives of internal medicine, 166(22), 2437-2445: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17159008/
 Strandberg, T. E., Strandberg, A. Y., Salomaa, V. V., Pitkälä, K., Tilvis, R. S., & Miettinen, T. A. (2007). Alcoholic beverage preference, 29-year mortality, and quality of life in men in old age. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 62(2), 213-218: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17339649/
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