Biotechnology

These eight habits can extend your life for decades

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A new study involving more than 700,000 US veterans reports that people who adopt eight healthy lifestyle habits in midlife can expect to live significantly longer than those who have few or none of these habits. The eight habits are: being physically active, free from opioid addiction, not smoking, managing stress, having a good diet, not drinking alcohol regularly, having good sleep hygiene, and having positive social relationships.

A new study involving more than 700,000 US veterans reports that people who adopt eight healthy lifestyle habits in midlife can expect to live significantly longer than those who have few or none of these habits. The eight habits are: being physically active, free from opioid addiction, not smoking, managing stress, having a good diet, not drinking alcohol regularly, having good sleep hygiene, and having positive social relationships.

According to the results, men who had eight habits by the age of 40 were expected to live an average of 24 years longer than men who did not have any of these habits. For women, having the eight healthy lifestyle factors in midlife was associated with an estimated 21 additional years of life compared to women who did not have these habits.

“We were really surprised by how much there was to gain by adopting one, two, three, or eight lifestyle factors,” said Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, a health sciences specialist in the Department of Veterans Affairs and an up-and-coming fourth-year medical student at Carle Illinois College of Medicine. “Our research findings show that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important for public health and personal health. The earlier the better, but even if you only make small changes in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still pays off.”

Nguyen will present his findings at NUTRITION 2023, the American Society for Nutrition’s premier annual meeting being held July 22-25 in Boston.

For the study, the scientists used data from medical records and questionnaires collected between 2011-2019 from 719,147 people enrolled in the One Million Veterans Affairs Program, a large study that is representative of US veterans nationwide. The analysis included data from adults aged 40-99 years and included 33,375 deaths during follow-up.

Overall, the results show that low physical activity, opioid use, and smoking had the greatest impact on lifespan; these factors were associated with an approximately 30–45% higher risk of death during the study period. Stress, binge drinking, poor diet, and poor sleep hygiene are each associated with an approximately 20% increased risk of death, and a lack of positive social relationships is associated with a 5% increased risk of death.

According to the researchers, the findings underscore the role of lifestyle factors in contributing to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease that lead to premature disability and death. The results also help measure the extent to which making healthy lifestyle choices can help people reduce their risk of these diseases and live longer.

“Lifestyle medicine is aimed at treating the underlying causes of chronic disease rather than the symptoms,” says Nguyen. “This provides a potential avenue to change the course of healthcare costs that continue to rise due to prescription drugs and surgical procedures.”

The estimated increase in life expectancy from adopting the eight factors of a healthy lifestyle grows slightly smaller with age but remains significant, meaning adopting healthier habits at an older age can still help you live longer. “It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” said Nguyen.

As an observational study, it doesn’t definitively prove causality, said Nguyen. However, these findings align with a growing body of research supporting the role of lifestyle factors in preventing chronic disease and promoting healthy aging.

Nguyen will be presenting this study at 8:29 a.m. EDT on Monday, July 24, during the Flash Session on Nutrition-Related Factors and Chronic Disease Poster Theater at the Sheraton Boston, Fairfax (abstract; presentation details).

Please note that abstracts presented at NUTRITION 2023 are evaluated and selected by a committee of experts but generally do not go through the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. Thus, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until peer-reviewed publications become available.

About NUTRITION 2023

NUTRITION 2023 is the flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition and the premier educational event for nutrition professionals around the world. NUTRITION brings together lab scientists, practicing physicians, population health researchers, and community intervention investigators to identify solutions to today’s greatest nutrition challenges. Our audience also includes emerging leaders in the field – undergraduate, graduate and medical students. NUTRITION 2023 will be held July 22-25 2023 in Boston. https://nutrition.org/N23 #Nutrition2023

About the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

ASN is the leading professional organization for nutritional research scientists and physicians worldwide. Founded in 1928, the society brings together leading nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers, and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and practice of nutrition. ASN publishes four peer-reviewed journals and provides educational and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice, and education. Since 2018, the American Society of Nutrition has hosted NUTRITION, the leading global annual meeting for nutrition professionals. http://www.nutrition.org

Find more news briefs from NUTRITION 2023 at: https://www.eurekalert.org/newsroom/nutrition2023.

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