In an age when instant gratification usually wins over putting in the hard work and effort, we’re always on the hunt for easy health tips we can implement to make us look and feel better and live longer. So when new research was released from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that promised five lifestyle habits that may increase your life expectancy by a decade of more, we were all ears.
We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but these tips are the exact same health guidelines we’ve been hearing for years consolidated into one list: Eating well, exercising, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy weight.
But isn’t new research supposed to tell us something… well, new? Even though this particular study doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about how to live a healthy life, it is the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of adopting low-risk lifestyle factors on life expectancy in America. In other words, while these are familiar health tips, we now know more about their long-term effects.
The study, published in the journal Circulation, found that Americans who maintained the healthiest of lifestyles (following their five guidelines) were 82 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 percent less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly three-decade study period. These numbers are no joke — especially when you consider that they’re based on lifestyle changes that are within most people’s power to implement.
This is pretty important when you consider that the U.S. has a shorter average life expectancy than most other high-income countries (79.3 years), placing us 31st in the world in 2015.
After analyzing 27 years of data from 78,865 women and 44,354 men, the study found that the women who adopted and maintained the five lifestyle habits mentioned above gained an average of 14 years of life (men gained around 12).
“This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. population,” Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study, said in a statement. “However, adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low. Therefore, public policies should put more emphasis on creating healthy food, built, and social environments to support and promote healthy diet and lifestyles.”
So, no, there still isn’t a quick health fix, but at least we know more about how much control we really do have over our own well-being and life expectancy.