Healthy Habits Deliver an Extra Disease Free Decade
Listen to the post as heard on WFSU's Ageing Today
A recent study in the British Medical Journal of 111,000 Americans noted that if at age 50 you met 4 of the 5 following criteria that women would add 10 more years and men would add 7 more years free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type-2 diabetes. Those lifestyle factors were that you never smoked, had a healthy, balanced diet, did 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily, had a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 and had no more than a small glass of wine for women or a pint of beer for men per day. This equated to women living on average 84 years which was 10 years longer than women who did not meet the criteria while men lived an average of 81 years which was 7 years longer than men who did not meet those criteria. The conclusion is that they gained not just more years of life but good years through improved lifestyle choices.
So, what does this mean for you if you're not meeting those criteria?
If you are currently a smoker, good news. Recent research on smoking cessation shows that the lungs have an amazing healing rate after quitting. It doesn't completely reverse the damage currently done but, it does lower your chances or needing to be on an oxygen tank, sudden heart attack, and stroke the sooner you are able to stop.
What about the healthy, balanced diet and what does that even mean?
Should you go paleo, keto, atkins, vegan, pescatarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, or gluten free? With so many choices out there and each of them claiming "Science supports them" it's hard to know what direction to go. What about if you have specific dietary needs? While obviously the best choice here is to work with a licensed dietitian, that's not an option for many. The simplest is following the MyPlate rules combined with the concept of eating the rainbow(meaning lots of very colorful food like in the picture above)
And what does moderate exercise mean?
Moderate exercise definition is deliberately vague because it is different for different people. For some, especially with chronic pain, the idea of doing 30 minutes of slow walking feels unreachable while for some 30 minutes of walking isn't enough to get the heart rate up. In addition, some studies have shown that it doesn't need to be all at once, so it can be broken up throughout the day. This works great if you aren't able to do 30 minutes straight or it will be so hard on you that you will be in pain for days afterwards. This is also great for moms or dads who can't get away from the kids for a full half hour and might be able to get in 15 minutes at a time. So, for our definition of "moderate". We're going to use how hard it feels to you for our definition. This means that you are at roughly 60% of what you feel you could do. If you're walking with a friend, your exertion is high enough that though you can talk, you are breathing somewhat hard but still able to talk.
Unsure about if exercise is safe for you? Learn more on our Exercise Injury Page