Add 24 Years To Your Life With 8 Simple Habits Says Study From The American Society For Nutrition

Add 24 Years To Your Life With 8 Simple Habits Says Study From The American Society For Nutrition

Members of the professional health community have long been touting the benefits of adopting a healthy lifestyle. But what specifically should people do to create this lifestyle? One study provides some guidance. The study, involving over 700,000 U.S. veterans, found people who adopted eight simple habits by middle age lived longer than those who had few or none of these habits.

The observational study, presented at the 2023 annual meeting of The American Society For Nutrition, predicted that men who incorporate these healthy habits into their lifestyle at age 40 would live an average of 24 years longer than men who do not have these habits. The eight habits are:

  • Being physically active
  • Being free from opioid addiction
  • Not smoking
  • Managing stress
  • Having a good diet
  • Not regularly binge drinking
  • Having good sleep hygiene
  • Having positive social relationships

In an interview with HuffPost UK, Richard Smith-Bernal, founder and owner of The Juice Smith, a restaurant based in Cobham, Surrey, England, offered practical advice on how to adopt these eight habits for a longer life.

1. Being Physically Active

Exercise doesn’t always have to involve heavy dumbells, resistance bands, or treadmills. Rather than overexerting yourself with exercise equipment, Smith-Bernal recommends finding activities that you enjoy doing.

“Instead of investing in a gym membership that you might never use because you dislike exercise machines, explore other options,” Smith-Bernal said. “Perhaps you find joy in rock climbing or participating in a local sports league.”

The point here is you are more likely to stick to something that you enjoy doing instead of feeling obligated to do traditional exercises you might not enjoy.

2. Being free from opioid addiction

Since the 1990s, an increase in opioid prescriptions has led to widespread misuse and abuse of the drugs, as well as overdose deaths. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 people in the United States have died from an overdose involving opioids since 1999, including both prescription and illegal forms.

According to Smith-Bernal, most people started by taking benign prescribed opioid-based painkillers for medical reasons but became addicted to the drugs over time.

“Don’t take any prescription from your doctor lightly,” Smith-Bernal said. “Talk with your doctor about the risks of opioids and find a plan that balances your need for pain relief with the dangers at hand. And if you find yourself having a hard time getting off the prescription, seek help—the earlier, the better.”

3. Not smoking

The health community has continually warned about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Now, the health alarm is sounding even louder with the emergence of electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigarettes” or “vapes.

With e-cigarettes, a mist of nicotine, flavoring (e-liquid), and other chemicals is heated and inhaled through a small, handheld device. E-cigarettes are marketed as safer than cigarettes because the e-cigarette aerosol does not include all the contaminants in tobacco smoke. But health experts say that vaping is not safe because nicotine is highly addictive.

“E-cigarettes are not the solution to a smoking problem,” Smith-Bernal said. “Talk to a doctor about other ways to ease off of a nicotine addiction that don’t include harming your lungs.”

4. Managing Stress

Chronic stress strains the body and raises the risk of disease, which is why managing stress is crucial to preserving good health.

“Healthy eating, regular exercise, positive social interactions, and getting enough sleep are all critical components of stress management,” Smith-Bernal said. “By adopting these habits, you’re improving your health and actively reducing stress levels in both your mind and body.”

5. Having a Good Diet

Studies have found that a well-balanced diet has many health benefits. However, replacing junk foods with fruits and vegetables and sugary drinks with green tea, water, and other healthy drinks is not easy.

Smith-Bernal recommends starting slowly by adding a vegetable into your daily meal this week and then adding a new type of seed or nut the following week. After that, add another superfood fruit to your diet.

Smith-Bernal advises: “Maintaining a healthy diet is about finding balance. Instead of focusing on restriction, shift your mindset towards adding more nutritious foods.”

6. Not regularly binge drinking

Drinking alcohol is a social activity in many cultures, but it is also the source of chronic illnesses. According to the International Classification of Disease (ICD)-10, a system that allows countries to compare and share health data in a consistent and standard way, 25 chronic diseases and conditions are entirely attributable to alcohol, including certain cancers, neuropsychiatric conditions, and numerous cardiovascular and digestive diseases.

Binge drinking is also a problem. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as drinking five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women in about two hours.

“With alcohol being such a prominent part of our culture, many underestimate the strong connection it has to chronic disease; it’s never too late to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol,” Smith-Bernal said.

Smith-Bernal suggests finding ways to socialize that do not involve alcohol, such as consuming alcohol-free drinks and cocktails, or bringing your own “fancy juice” to parties. It’s also important to stay hydrated.

7. Having Good Sleep Hygiene

Just as eating healthy foods helps your body, adopting healthy bedtime habits can help you get a good night’s sleep and feel refreshed in the morning. Smith-Bernal recommends establishing a bedtime routine that transitions away from technology. This means turning off smartphones, laptops, tablets, and the TV.

“By reducing your exposure to blue light and minimizing stimulation, your body can naturally ease into a state of drowsiness earlier, leading to a more restful and rejuvenating sleep,” he said.

8. Having positive social relationships

Staying in contact with family, friends, and neighbors and maintaining healthy social connections are important factors in keeping loneliness at bay. In recent years, about 1 in 2 American adults reported experiencing loneliness, and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a U.S. Surgeon General’s report.

“Loneliness can have severe consequences for both physical and mental health, including increased stress, depression, and even a higher risk of certain chronic illnesses,” Smith-Bernal said.

One way to develop positive relationships and make an impact at the same time is by volunteering to help others in your community, according to Smith-Bernal. Volunteering allows you to meet “like-minded people who share your interests and values.

“Online resources such as meetup groups and social networking platforms provide opportunities to connect with people who share your interests or hobbies,” Smith-Bernal said.

Not everyone can adopt all eight lifestyle habits due to various constraints, but the study found that incorporating just one of these practices can increase your lifespan, regardless of your age.

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