Adopting eight healthy habits in middle age could lengthen your life by decades.
A major US study looked at eight important habits of a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, having a good diet, sleeping well and managing stress.
They also included being physically active, having positive social relationships with other people, not regularly binge drinking and avoiding addiction to opioid drugs.
Women with all eight of these habits at the age of 40 could live an average of 21 years longer than women with none of the habits, a study found.
Men aged 40 with all eight habits could expect to live 24 years longer on average than those with zero.
The eight habits that could help you live longer, according to a major study
The findings come from almost 720,000 military veterans in the US, who filled out questionnaires on their lifestyle and whose medical records were analysed.
The group, aged 40 to 99, was then followed up to see who had died.
Dr Xuan-Mai Nguyen, lead author of the study from Carle Illinois College of Medicine, said: ‘We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three, or all eight lifestyle factors.
How to lengthen your life by decades
Being physically active — more than around 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity
Never having smoked
Good diet — high in fruit and vegetables, for example
Not regularly binge drinking — avoiding more than four drinks a day
Good sleep — seven to nine hours of sleep a night, without insomnia
Positive social relationships — such as having a close person to talk to about problems
Stress management — based on how well people cope with high-pressure situations
Being free of opioid addiction
‘Our research findings suggest that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important for both public health and personal wellness.
‘The earlier the better, but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial.’
There were 33,375 deaths among people in the study, which allowed researchers to see how likely people with each of the eight healthy habits were to die.
Overall, the results showed keeping physically active, not smoking and not being addicted to opioid drugs had the biggest impact on lifespan.
These reduced the risk of death by 46 percent for being active, 29 percent for non-smokers, and 38 percent for those without an opioid problem, which can occur as a result of becoming addicted to powerful painkillers prescribed for illness.
Minimizing stress, having a good diet, not being a binge drinker and having good sleeping habits were linked to around a 20 percent reduction in the risk of dying.
The smallest effect was seen for people with positive social relationships, but this was linked to about a five percent reduction in the likelihood of dying during the study.
Based on the findings, presented at NUTRITION 2023, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, Dr Nguyen, a scientist for the Million Veteran Programme, said: ‘Healthy lifestyle habits can prevent the underlying causes of chronic diseases, which could help people to live them to live longer, until their eighties rather than their sixties.
‘It could save the health service money for drugs and treatment.’
The above graph shows how lifespan increased depending on the number of ‘longevity’ factors a study participant had
At the age of 40, men with none of the healthy lifestyle habits could expect to die at the age of 62 on average.
But those with all eight healthy habits could reach the age of 86.
Women with none of the healthy habits could expect to live until the age of 66, but those with all eight could expect to live to 88 on average.
Having all eight healthy habits were linked to an 87 percent reduction in the risk of dying early.
There was a higher effect on life expectancy for people who had the eight healthy habits at a younger age, but an effect was still seen up until the age of 60, when the date was analyzed.
Both sexes could expect about 17 to 18 extra years of life if they had all eight good habits in place at 60.