3 healthy habits that can help you live 10 years longer
Healthy habits such as regular exercise and a healthy diet can add up to 10 years of disease-free life, according to a major study.
Healthy habits such as regular exercise and a healthy diet can add up to 10 years of disease-free life, according to a major study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The study, which examined health data of over 110,000 participants between 1980-2014, found that some long-term healthy habits can have a meaningful impact on our lives.
The findings of the study
The habits included not smoking, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, drinking moderately, following a healthy diet and maintaining a BMI between 18 and 25. The study found that those who consistently followed these habits had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
According to the data, women over 50 with healthy lifestyle habits were likely to live for 41 more years, whereas women who didn’t have any of these healthy habits were likely to live for 31 more years. Similarly, with men, those with healthy habits would likely live another 39 years as opposed to 31 years for those who had no healthy habits. The data was based on questionnaires conducted every two years and corroborated by the health records of the participants.
The study also suggested that those with healthy habits would also survive longer after contracting chronic diseases. Men who smoked a lot and those with a BMI of over 30 performed the poorest.
How to live a healthier life
The disparities the study highlights are substantial. Encouragingly, since the behaviours are modifiable, there are many steps we can take to make our lifestyle healthier and lives longer and happier. Here are some tips based on the findings of the study:
1. Eat a balanced diet: A balanced diet includes a range of food groups in the right quantity so it satisfies the dietary requirements of essential minerals and vitamins. Here are some recommendations.
- Eat at least 5 servings of a mixture of fruits and vegetables a day. Carry some bananas, apples, or whichever fruit is seasonal to work and try having vegetables with all your meals. Avoid packaged fruit juices as they contain high amounts of sugar and not enough fibre.
- Go for whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Whole wheat foods contain a higher amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals. For Indians, this would mean consuming rotis made of whole wheat - ask your vendor for pure whole wheat or buy the whole grain and process it in a chakki yourself.
- Opt for low-fat dairy. Dairy alternatives such as soy milk and low-fat milk will contain less fat and will be healthier.
- Choose white, lean meats over red meats. Mutton and lamb should be had less frequently. Instead, go for chicken that has had its skin removed and is cooked thoroughly. Fish and eggs are also an important source of protein. Have at least two servings of fish a week.
- Avoid foods with high amounts of sugar and salt and reduce the intake of saturated fats. Broadly, this means you should steer clear of fast food and processed food.
2. Get exercising: 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week is important. This comes down to 30 minutes spaced between 5 days. What is moderate aerobic exercise? It is a workout that will raise your heart rate and breathing and make you feel warmer. Activities like brisk walking, hiking, cycling, dancing and even pushing a lawnmower can be a good idea.
3. Limit alcohol intake and quit smoking: We have the tendency to forget that alcohol contains calories as well. Drinking excessively will have an impact on your waistline. Smoking is associated with terrible long-term health outcomes and quitting is in the best interests of you and your loved ones. Nicotine replacement therapies along with counselling have been showing encouraging results.
Working every day on your health will have a big impact on your overall wellbeing. Now is as good a time as any to invest in yourself!
For more information, read our article on a Balanced Diet.
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