Follow your heart's desire

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Six Keys To A Longer Life

Six Keys To A Longer Life

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DISCLAIMER: The website's content is based upon the author's opinion and is provided solely on an "AS IS" and "AS AVAILABLE" basis. You should do your own research and confirm the information with other sources when searching for information regarding health issues and always review the information carefully with your professional health care provider before using any of the protocols presented on this website and/or in the product sold here. The author is not engaged in rendering medical or similar professional services or advice via this website, and the information provided is not intended to replace medical advice offered by a physician or other licensed healthcare provider.

Do you know the United States spends the most money on healthcare, yet still has one of the lowest life expectancies of all developed nations? $9,400 is spent per person, and the life expectancy is 79 years, putting the United States in 31st place.

Do you think healthcare professionals in the United States have been looking at the problem wrong?

Healthy lifestyle and longevity

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a massive study of the impact of health habits on life expectancy, using data from the well-known Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). This means that they had data on a huge number of people over a very long period of time. The NHS included over 78,000 women and followed them from 1980 to 2014. The HPFS included over 40,000 men and followed them from 1986 to 2014. This is over 120,000 participants, 34 years of data for women, and 28 years of data for men.

The researchers looked at NHS and HPFS data on diet, physical activity, body weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption that had been collected from regularly administered, validated questionnaires.

What is a healthy lifestyle?

These five areas were chosen because prior studies have shown them to have a large impact on risk of premature death. Here is how these healthy habits were defined and measured:

  • Healthy diet, which was calculated and rated based on the reported intake of healthy foods like vegetables, fruits,  nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, and unhealthy foods like red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans  fat, and sodium.
  • Healthy physical activity level, which was measured as at least 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity daily.
  • Healthy body weight, defined as a normal body mass index (BMI), which is between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • No Smoking. There is no healthy amount of smoking. “Healthy” here meant never having smoked.
  • Moderate alcohol intake, which was measured as between 5 and 15 grams per day for women, and 5 to 30 grams per day for men. Generally, one drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. That’s 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

Researchers also looked at data on age, ethnicity, and medication use, as well as comparison data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s  Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research.

Does healthy lifestyle make a difference?

As it turns out, healthy habits make a big difference. According to  this analysis, people who met criteria for all five habits enjoyed significantly, impressively longer lives than those who had none: 14  years for women and 12 years for men (if they had these habits at age  50). People who had none of these habits were far more likely to die prematurely from cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Study investigators also calculated life expectancy by how many of  these five healthy habits people had. Just one healthy habit (and it  didn’t matter which one) … just one… extended life expectancy by two years in men and women. Not surprisingly, the more healthy habits people had, the longer their lifespan. This is one of those situations where I wish I could reprint their graphs for you, because they’re so cool. (But if you’re very curious, the article is available online, and the graphs are on page 7. Check out Graph B, “Estimated life expectancy at age 50 according to the number of low-risk factors.”)

This is huge. And, it confirms prior similar research — a lot of prior similar research. A 2017 study using data from the Health and Retirement Study found that people 50 and older who were normal weight, had never smoked, and drank alcohol in moderation lived on average seven years longer. A 2012 mega-analysis of 15 international studies that included over 500,000 participants found that over half of premature deaths were due to unhealthy lifestyle factors such as poor diet, inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol intake, and smoking. And the list of supporting research goes on.

So what’s our (big) problem?

As the authors of this study point out, the United States spends outlandishly on developing fancy drugs and other treatments for diseases, rather than trying to prevent the diseases. This is a big problem.

Experts have suggested that the best way to help people make healthy diet and lifestyle change is at the large-scale, population level, through public health efforts and policy changes. (Kind of like motorcycle helmets and seat belt  legislation…) We have made a little progress with tobacco and trans-fat legislation.

There’s a lot of pushback from big industry on that, of course. If we have guidelines and laws helping us to live healthier, big companies aren’t going to sell as much fast food, chips, and soda. And for companies hell-bent on making money at the cost of human life, well, that makes them very angry.

What's the sixth key?

The title of this article states "six" keys to longer life, but so far we only covered five -- those five chosen by the Harvard researchers. However, it's worth noting that other significant research has revealed another key lifestyle habit for longer life.

  • Positive Thinking. There are many benefits to maintaining a positive outlook on life including stress reduction, improved immunity, and a lower risk for heart disease.

Studies show that how you perceive aging and your life as a whole affects longevity. A 2019 study found that positive thinking can result in an 11–15% longer lifespan and a stronger likelihood of living to age 85 or older. This effect remained after other factors such as age, gender, income, depression, and health status were controlled.

Findings suggest that positive thinking about aging can increase a person's will to live, making them more resilient to illness and more proactive about health. Those with a positive outlook are also likely to experience less stress, reducing their likelihood of developing chronic diseases or disorders.

References

Impact of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancies in the US population

(http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2018/04/25/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, What is a standard drink?

(https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink)

The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle: Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed.

(https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/abs/10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1569)

The combined effects of healthy lifestyle behaviors on all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743512002666?via%3Dihub)

Changing minds about changing behavior.

(https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33324-X/abstract)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Final Determination regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (trans fat)

(https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm449162.htm)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act- An Overview

(https://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/Labeling/RulesRegulationsGuidance/ucm246129.htm)

Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women

(https://www.pnas.org/content/116/37/18357)

Resilience Significantly Contributes to Exceptional Longevity

(https://new.hindawi.com/journals/cggr/2010/525693/)

Do you know the United States spends the most money on healthcare, yet still has one of the lowest life expectancies of all developed nations? $9,400 is spent per person, and the life expectancy is 79 years, putting the United States in 31st place.

Do you think healthcare professionals in the United States have been looking at the problem wrong?

Healthy lifestyle and longevity

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a massive study of the impact of health habits on life expectancy, using data from the well-known Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). This means that they had data on a huge number of people over a very long period of time. The NHS included over 78,000 women and followed them from 1980 to 2014. The HPFS included over 40,000 men and followed them from 1986 to 2014. This is over 120,000 participants, 34 years of data for women, and 28 years of data for men.

The researchers looked at NHS and HPFS data on diet, physical activity, body weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption that had been collected from regularly administered, validated questionnaires.

What is a healthy lifestyle?

These five areas were chosen because prior studies have shown them to have a large impact on risk of premature death. Here is how these healthy habits were defined and measured:

  • Healthy diet, which was calculated and rated based on the reported intake of healthy foods like vegetables, fruits,  nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, and unhealthy foods like red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans  fat, and sodium.
  • Healthy physical activity level, which was measured as at least 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity daily.
  • Healthy body weight, defined as a normal body mass index (BMI), which is between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • No Smoking. There is no healthy amount of smoking. “Healthy” here meant never having smoked.
  • Moderate alcohol intake, which was measured as between 5 and 15 grams per day for women, and 5 to 30 grams per day for men. Generally, one drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. That’s 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

Researchers also looked at data on age, ethnicity, and medication use, as well as comparison data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s  Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research.

Does healthy lifestyle make a difference?

As it turns out, healthy habits make a big difference. According to  this analysis, people who met criteria for all five habits enjoyed significantly, impressively longer lives than those who had none: 14  years for women and 12 years for men (if they had these habits at age  50). People who had none of these habits were far more likely to die prematurely from cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Study investigators also calculated life expectancy by how many of  these five healthy habits people had. Just one healthy habit (and it  didn’t matter which one) … just one… extended life expectancy by two years in men and women. Not surprisingly, the more healthy habits people had, the longer their lifespan. This is one of those situations where I wish I could reprint their graphs for you, because they’re so cool. (But if you’re very curious, the article is available online, and the graphs are on page 7. Check out Graph B, “Estimated life expectancy at age 50 according to the number of low-risk factors.”)

This is huge. And, it confirms prior similar research — a lot of prior similar research. A 2017 study using data from the Health and Retirement Study found that people 50 and older who were normal weight, had never smoked, and drank alcohol in moderation lived on average seven years longer. A 2012 mega-analysis of 15 international studies that included over 500,000 participants found that over half of premature deaths were due to unhealthy lifestyle factors such as poor diet, inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol intake, and smoking. And the list of supporting research goes on.

So what’s our (big) problem?

As the authors of this study point out, the United States spends outlandishly on developing fancy drugs and other treatments for diseases, rather than trying to prevent the diseases. This is a big problem.

Experts have suggested that the best way to help people make healthy diet and lifestyle change is at the large-scale, population level, through public health efforts and policy changes. (Kind of like motorcycle helmets and seat belt  legislation…) We have made a little progress with tobacco and trans-fat legislation.

There’s a lot of pushback from big industry on that, of course. If we have guidelines and laws helping us to live healthier, big companies aren’t going to sell as much fast food, chips, and soda. And for companies hell-bent on making money at the cost of human life, well, that makes them very angry.

What's the sixth key?

The title of this article states "six" keys to longer life, but so far we only covered five -- those five chosen by the Harvard researchers. However, it's worth noting that other significant research has revealed another key lifestyle habit for longer life.

  • Positive Thinking. There are many benefits to maintaining a positive outlook on life including stress reduction, improved immunity, and a lower risk for heart disease.

Studies show that how you perceive aging and your life as a whole affects longevity. A 2019 study found that positive thinking can result in an 11–15% longer lifespan and a stronger likelihood of living to age 85 or older. This effect remained after other factors such as age, gender, income, depression, and health status were controlled.

Findings suggest that positive thinking about aging can increase a person's will to live, making them more resilient to illness and more proactive about health. Those with a positive outlook are also likely to experience less stress, reducing their likelihood of developing chronic diseases or disorders.

References

Impact of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancies in the US population

(http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2018/04/25/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, What is a standard drink?

(https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink)

The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle: Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed.

(https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/abs/10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1569)

The combined effects of healthy lifestyle behaviors on all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743512002666?via%3Dihub)

Changing minds about changing behavior.

(https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33324-X/abstract)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Final Determination regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (trans fat)

(https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm449162.htm)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act- An Overview

(https://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/Labeling/RulesRegulationsGuidance/ucm246129.htm)

Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women

(https://www.pnas.org/content/116/37/18357)

Resilience Significantly Contributes to Exceptional Longevity

(https://new.hindawi.com/journals/cggr/2010/525693/)