Just a few healthy habits could add years to a person’s life, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation. Currently, the average 50-year-old American lives roughly 30 to 33 years past that point. However, the recent information reveals that those who adopt five healthy lifestyle habits — no smoking, regular exercise, healthy eating, keeping a normal weight, and light drinking — add an extra 10 years to that total.
While such habits have always been considered healthy, this is the first time scientists have analyzed exactly how healthy they can be. The five habits are not just healthy, they are also easy to incorporate into daily life. For instance, brisk walking for 30 minutes a day is enough exercise to improve a person’s life expectancy, as is cutting back on fatty meals.
Even so, only a few Americans can stick to such patterns. In fact, the team behind the research noted that only 8 percent of U.S. adults have met all five goals in recent years. That could help explain why the United States falls behind so many other countries in terms of longevity.
In the research, scientists followed 123,000 U.S. health professionals from the 1980’s until 2014. During that period, the subjects gave detailed information about their diets, exercise habits, and general lifestyle factors.
By 2014, roughly 42,000 of the participants had died. Researchers then compared the deaths to the five lifestyle factors to see how they played into overall life expectancy. On average, subjects who followed these five healthy habits were less likely to die of heart disease, stroke, or cancer.
However, as beneficial as the changes were, they are not easy for everyone to achieve. As a result, the team behind the research believes the idea of healthy habits could be a public policy issue. They hope their findings will help inspire policy changes and make healthy lifestyles more accessible down the line.