Have you ever wondered how to extend your life and enjoy better health? A recent study concludes that eight lifestyle changes could help you achieve just that. In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into these lifestyle changes and provide additional insights to help you live a longer, healthier life.
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A study conducted by Xuan-Mai T Nguyen, a health science specialist at the US Department of Veteran Affairs, highlights the importance of healthy habits for public health and personal wellness. The research analyzed data from questionnaires and medical records of over 700,000 US veterans aged 40 to 99 enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program between 2011 and 2019. The study’s critical points looked at how adopting all eight lifestyle changes by middle age can add an average of 21 years to a woman’s life and 24 years to a man’s.
Although the study is observational, with no causal link proven between these lifestyle factors and lifespan differences, the findings reveal potential benefits of making minor changes, even in middle age.
How to Change Your Lifestyle For The Better
A balanced and nutritious diet can contribute to improved health and longer life. It’s essential to incorporate whole-balanced foods when making a lifestyle change toward better eating habits. When shopping in the grocery store, these are mostly the foods at the parameter of the store. According to research, six food groups help improve your lifespan:
- 2-3 servings of fruits
- 2-3 servings of vegetables
- 3-4 servings of legumes
- 7 servings of nuts
- 2-3 servings of fish
- 14 servings of dairy products (mainly whole-fat, excluding butter or whipped cream)
The main focus of this suggestion for applying to your lifestyle changes is increasing vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and fish, whole fat dairy in moderation.
Not smoking or quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of numerous health issues and increase your lifespan. If you do smoke, by quitting, significant health benefits emerge. If you need convincing to make this lifestyle change, here are some of the observed benefits after quitting, according to the American Lung Association:
- Twenty minutes after quitting: Heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- Twelve hours after quitting: Carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal.
- Two weeks to three months after quitting: The risk of heart attack begins to fall, and lung function increases.
- One year after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half.
- Five years after quitting: The risks of cancer – including lung, mouth, and throat – are reduced by half.
- Ten years after quitting: The survival rate of lung cancer for former smokers doubles.
- Fifteen years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease becomes the same as that of non-smokers.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Quality sleep is crucial for our bodies to repair and rejuvenate, impacting overall health and longevity. I’ve written at length on sleep and its benefits.
Most people need around eight hours of sleep a day. However, some people may need more or less depending on age, activity level, and overall health. For example, young children and teenagers need more sleep than adults, and athletes or people recovering from an illness may also need more sleep.
Getting enough sleep is essential for your physical and mental health too. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be at risk of developing chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. You may also be more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Be physically active
Regular physical activity is associated with better physical and mental well-being, thus contributing to a longer life. Physical activity delays death from all causes, including the leading causes of death, heart disease and cancer. Although physical activity is a lifestyle choice, it decreases premature death risk by 33% more than physically inactive people. The benefits of physical activity even occur with minimal moderate to vigorous exercise, then nothing at all. Research suggests a 20-minute walk daily to reduce the risk of early death. So what are you waiting for? Read more about why you need to be physically active here: 5 Reasons Why You Need to Exercise Immediately.
Having stress is unavoidable, but learning how to manage your stress is important. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol in the body that can be detrimental to your health. Long-term stress may lead to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, and obesity. For more tips on managing stress for positive lifestyle changes, check out 7 Effective Strategies to Manage stress.
Avoid binge drinking
Limiting alcohol intake or avoiding binge drinking can lower the risk of numerous health problems and increase longevity. Binge drinking is associated with four drinks for women and five drinks for men—in about 2 hours, and excessive drinking may lead to alcohol-related problems like cancer, heart disease, and mental health issues.
Women have a higher risk of developing some alcohol-related problems. The alcohol-related problems start sooner in women than men because of our size and biological differences. In addition, there is a strong association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. Women who consume alcohol have a 5-9% increased risk of developing breast cancer. In addition to breast cancer risks, women are more likely to show signs of liver damage, alcohol-related heart disease, and brain damage with alcohol misuse.
When making lifestyle changes with alcohol consumption in binge drinking, consider these tips:
Set clear goals and limits
Set boundaries with how many drinks you have and limit it to certain days.
Choose alcohol-free days, weeks, or months.
Start small and build your way up. Dedicate certain days, weeks, or months where you avoid alcohol altogether. As you get used to limiting it, it will be easier to avoid drinking.
Find alternatives or change your environment.
Find other fun activities that do not include drinking, and find people that encourage you to do things other than alcohol.
Be free from opioid addiction.
Avoiding opioid addiction can significantly improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of premature death. Opioid addiction can take a tremendous toll on individuals and their loved ones, leading to an array of negative consequences:
- Physical Health: Opioid misuse can cause respiratory depression, liver and kidney damage, gastrointestinal issues, and a weakened immune system.
- Mental Health: Addiction can contribute to or worsen mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
- Relationships: Substance abuse can strain relationships, leading to broken trust, instability, and isolation.
- Employment and Financial Stability: Opioid addiction can hinder productivity and job performance, resulting in unemployment and financial struggles.
When making lifestyle changes, avoiding addiction can be challenging, but it can happen with the proper support, resources, and personal commitment. Tips may include seeking alternative forms of pain management, addressing mental health issues, and seeking professional help.
Have positive social relationships.
Nurturing social connections with friends and family contributes to our overall well-being and happiness, influencing our lifespan positively.
Having healthy friendships and relationships improve your health and well-being as you age. Research finds loneliness contributes to higher stress and inflammation in the body leading to a higher mortality rate. Friends offer relief from stress and promote a sense of belonging. They are essential to mental health improvements and help you cope with life traumas. Here are some friendship tips to help as we age:
- Find people with a common interest.
- Focus on quality over quantity.
- Be flexible
- Be open and honest.
More on these suggested lifestyle changes
Another important note in this study is that low physical activity, smoking, and opioid use have the most significant negative impact, decreasing lifespan by 30-45%. Although the research doesn’t establish a causal connection between these lifestyle changes and lifespan, medical professionals like Prof Naveed Sattar from the University of Glasgow encourage including these habits in our lives. Sattar asserts that medicines alone cannot guarantee good health, and we must strive towards better lifestyle changes for a healthy lifestyle and enjoyable life.