5 Lifestyle Habits Have 'Huge Effect' on Longevity

Harvard researchers surprised at how much of a difference familiar advice makes
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2018 9:20 AM CDT
Updated May 5, 2018 11:50 AM CDT
5 Habits Add 14 Years for Women, 12 for Men
A runner is silhouetted against the sunrise on his early morning workout near Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.   (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

Harvard researchers say five things will help you live longer, and the list isn't all that surprising: exercise, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy body weight, don't drink too much, and don't smoke. More surprising is just how much of an effect those five combined factors have on longevity—an extra 14 years for women and 12 for men, according to the study in Circulation. Researchers looked at about 30 years of data on more than 78,000 women and 44,000 men and found that those who were five-for-five on the aforementioned list had a significantly better life expectancy at age 50 than those who didn't abide by any of the healthy habits. For women, it meant an additional 43 years for the healthiest group, compared to 29 years. For men, it meant an additional 37.6 years, compared to 25.5 years.

“When we embarked on this study, I thought, of course, that people who adopted these habits would live longer," says co-author Meir Stampfer, per the Guardian. "But the surprising thing was how huge the effect was." The two big factors: Those with the healthiest lifestyles were less likely to get cancer or heart disease, notes CNN. The Harvard Gazette provides some specifics: Researchers defined regular exercise as 30 minutes or more per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity; moderate drinking is roughly one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for women and up to two for men; and the target body-mass index is between 18.5 and 24.9. Scientists say they undertook the study to better understand why the US has a shorter life expectancy (79.3 years) than most high-income countries. (Another study says it's all about eating smaller portions.)

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