Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet, regular exercise and not smoking, could prolong life expectancy at age 50 by 14 years for women and just over 12 years for men, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
America is one of the wealthiest countries worldwide, yet Americans have a shorter life expectancy compared with other high-income countries, including Japan, Canada and Norway.
Heart disease and stroke are major contributors to premature death in this country, with 2,300 Americans dying of cardiovascular disease each day, or one death every 38 seconds.
Researchers point out that the U.S. healthcare system focuses heavily on drug discovery and disease management; however, a greater emphasis on prevention could change this life expectancy trend.
To quantify the effects of prevention, researchers analyzed data from two major ongoing cohort studies that includes dietary, lifestyle and medical information on thousands of adults in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
These data were combined with National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, as well as mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to estimate the impact of lifestyle factors on life expectancy in the U.S. population. Specifically, they looked at how the following five behaviors affected a person’s longevity:
- Not smoking
- Eating a healthy diet (diet score in the top 40 percent of each cohort)
- Regularly exercising (30+ minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity)
- Keeping a healthy body weight (18.5-24.9 kg/m)
- Moderate alcohol consumption (5-15 g/day for women, 5-30 g/day for men)