Three Simple Lifestyle Changes to Make to Increase Your Lifespan
Each day, the choices we make can either promote our good health, or it can lead to a shortened lifespan.
I know it is easier said than done in some cases, but each day you truly do make choices that can either help you live a nice long life, or you could be contributing to disability. Most of these tips I am about to share with you are not new – but it can be shocking to learn exactly how they can affect your lifespan.
The new research was presented in the journal Nature Communications by a team at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The data comes from a study of more than 600,000 people in North American Europe and Australia.
Here is what they learned:
Smoking a pack of cigarettes each day can lead to a loss of seven years of life. In the United States, average life expectancy in 2012 was almost 79 years. Of the top ten leading causes of death, smoking contributes to several – including heart disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases like COPD.
But what this statistic doesn’t adequately report is the quality of the years leading up to end-of-life. Smoking contributes significantly to disability and decline in functional status.
Taking steps to quit smoking is probably the most important thing you can do for your health today.
More than one-third of us in the United States are Obese. Not just carrying around a few extra pounds, but we are clinically obese. In European Union countries, obesity affects between 10-30% of adults – it is truly a global problem today.
For every excess 2.2 pounds you carry, you can expect to cut your life expectancy by two months. That may not sound like much – but considering that a person who is 30 pounds overweight, that equals over two years of life lost.
Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death, per the CDC.
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Diet and physical activity are critical for improving your weight as well as improve the metabolic changes that can lead to the chronic diseases listed above. Remember that the best diets for weight loss are those that are plant-based!
And speaking of plant-based diets and longevity, the researchers found that improving cholesterol levels can protect eight months of lifespan and protecting the immune system (with high antioxidant/high nutrient plant foods) may add as much six months to your life!
Never stop learning. Always be open to new experiences. Researchers found that every year spent studying beyond formal school adds almost a year to a person’s life span. This corroborates results from a previous Harvard study that found that people with more than 12 years of formal education (even if it's only 1 year of college) live 18 months longer than those with fewer years of schooling.
There are many reasons for this trend. First, a better education usually means better jobs with good healthcare options. But more educated people also tend to take the steps outlined above to protect their health – not smoking, drinking less, and being physically active. Other potential factors include increased social activities and community involvement, which are critical for long-term health.
1. Peter K. Joshi, James F. Wilson et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis associates HLA-DQA1/DRB1 and LPA and lifestyle factors with human longevity. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00934-5
2. Andrew E Lincoln, Nicole S. Bell et al. The Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Musculoskeletal Related Disability. Am J Ind Med, 2003