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Eight Habits for 20+ Extra Years

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In a study presented at Nutrition 2023, the annual meeting of the ‘American Society for Nutrition’, researchers have pinpointed eight habits that can significantly extend a person’s lifespan by more than two decades. Drawing from data collected from 719,147 participants enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program, the study sheds light on the lifestyle factors that have the most profound impact on longevity.

The identified habits are as follows: regular physical activity, freedom from opioid addiction, non-smoking, effective stress management, a healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption, good sleep hygiene, and positive social relationships. Those who adopted all eight of these habits at the age of 40 were predicted to live an astounding 24 years longer for men and an extra 21 years for women compared to those who practiced none of these habits.

The study revealed that specific lifestyle factors were linked to varying degrees of increased risk of death. Low physical activity, opioid use, and smoking were associated with a significantly higher risk of death, ranging from 30% to 45%. On the other hand, stress, binge drinking, poor diet, poor sleep hygiene, and a lack of positive social relationships were each associated with around a 20% increase in the risk of premature death. Notably, a lack of positive social connections, although to a lesser extent, still contributed to a 5% higher risk of dying.

Xuan-Mai Nguyen, a health science specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, emphasized their surprise at the magnitude of the benefits gained from adopting these habits. The research underscores the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, not only for personal well-being but also for public health.

Inspired by these findings, individuals can take practical steps to embrace these healthy habits. Incorporating regular exercise into one’s routine can help prevent major diseases while reducing stress levels. Simple stress management practices like mindfulness meditation and engaging in hobbies and sports can significantly impact overall well-being.

Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption are crucial steps toward improved health and longevity. Adopting a balanced diet rich in fiber, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein while minimizing heavily processed and sugary foods can contribute to better health outcomes.

The study also highlights the importance of positive social relationships, which can improve mental and emotional well-being and ultimately extend life. Volunteering and participating in community activities are great ways to nurture a supportive network of friends, colleagues, and family.

Taking care of one’s sleep hygiene is equally vital for overall health. Establishing a sleep routine, creating a restful sleep environment, and ensuring an adequate number of hours of sleep can lead to improved physical and mental well-being.

The study offers invaluable insights into how specific lifestyle factors play a pivotal role in determining lifespan. By adopting these eight healthy habits, individuals can potentially add over 20 years to their lives, highlighting the significance of making these positive changes at any stage of life.

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