You may wonder if those lifestyle choices you make today will really make any difference on how you age or how long you will live. Can you truly decrease your risk of chronic diseases or is it already pre-determined?
The results of a new research study published in the BMJ may help you make up your mind.
What did the research study attempt to prove?
The objective of the research study was to determine the relationship between certain low-risk lifestyle factors and life expectancy with and without certain chronic diseases. The study set out to prove that by adopting particular healthy habits, you could not only add years to your life, but you could live those additional years free of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The low-risk lifestyle factors were:
- No Smoking,
- Healthy amounts of physical activity,
- Minimal alcohol use,
- Healthy body weight,
- and diet quality
How was the research study conducted?
The prospective cohort study examined the lifestyle choices of over 121,000 female nurses aged 30-55 from 1980 through 2014 and over 51,000 male medical professionals aged 40-75 from 1986 through 2014. The groups’ participants were chosen because they had similar occupations but had different lifestyle habits.
The study’s scientists evaluated the answers gathered from self-administered questionnaires that were updated every two years. The questions requested information about the participants’ smoking history, dietary choices, amounts and types of physical exercise, alcohol intake, and body mass indexes. Each lifestyle factor was given a score of one, with a maximum score of 5 indicating the healthiest lifestyle. The scientists assessed each participant’s life expectancy for each lifestyle factor and for all of the lifestyle factors combined. The scientists also analyzed the occurrence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all types of cancer when it was diagnosed and assessed the life expectancy.
What were the conclusions of the findings?
The results of this study suggest that embracing a healthy lifestyle even later in life can add years to your life. In addition, a healthy lifestyle can decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The study showed the most significant difference was seen with diabetes, where healthy men and women added an average of 7.6 and 10 years to their life expectancy, respectively. Even if diagnosed with one of these chronic diseases, you will live longer than someone who hasn’t led a healthy lifestyle.
The study shows that if you adopt just one of the five lifestyle factors, you will live longer with or without disease. However, the more healthy habits you have, the higher your life expectancy.
What are some practical recommendations for fitness trainees based on these findings?
Whether you’re trying to maintain your healthy lifestyle or starting a new fitness journey, there are a few important suggestions you can take away from this study. It’s never too late to quit smoking. If you are a current smoker, your lifestyle is considered less healthy than someone who doesn’t smoke. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day. A brisk walk is all you need to reduce your weight and body mass index. Include more nutrient-rich foods in your diet and limit your alcohol consumption to 5-15 grams each day if you’re a woman and 5-30 grams each day if you’re a man.
What’s another example of how to improve your lifespan? Intermittent Fasting (IF) is one example of a healthy habit that may positively impact your lifespan – because it helps you maintain a healthy body weight.
Intermittent fasting involves restricting the amount of food or the times during which you eat. The practice has been around for centuries and may offer you an opportunity to shed some weight, cleanse your gut, and create a healthy eating lifestyle. You either confine your eating to a particular time frame during the day or you choose to eat one moderately-sized meal two or three days a week.
It’s encouraging to know that the choices you make can make a difference in how healthy you will age and how long you will live. If you’re not making the right decisions, the conclusions from this study may persuade you to start making them.