When it’s likely that you are going to live into your 80s and 90s, isn’t it a good idea to work toward a healthy life span? Five lifestyle choices—the ones fitness professionals regularly recommend—may help you do it, according to a new analysis published online in the BMJ.
In this prospective cohort study, 73,196 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (34 years of data) and 38,366 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (28 years of data) reported their adherence to the Alternate Healthy Eating Index; how often they engaged in moderate-to-vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes per day; whether they maintained a body mass index of 18.5–24.9 kg/m2; whether their alcohol intake was moderate (up to one serving per day for women and up to two for men); and whether they smoked.
Women who practiced four or five of the healthy habits at age 50 lived an average of 34.4 more years without diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, compared with 23.7 healthy years among women who practiced none of these habits. Men practicing four or five healthy habits at age 50 lived 31.1 years free of chronic disease, compared with 23.5 years among men who practiced none.
Interestingly, rather than focusing on only one lifestyle factor, this study identified a combination of factors, providing a more realistic view of an individual’s lifestyle. As people age, their risk for chronic diseases increases, yet these data indicate that lifestyle choices can reduce those risks. This is an area in which fitness and wellness professionals can develop lifestyle programs within their scope that encourage clients of all ages to choose wisely.