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Research points to eight relatively simple habits that could add decades to your life depending on when you adopt them.

As the saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  With the expense and error associated with some medical care—incorporating healthy habits may increase your lifespan—and your quality of life. New research gleaned from data from the Million Veteran Program (MVP) points to eight habits worth investigating. 

The MVP is a program focused on the integration of health information and genetic sequencing. The program describes itself as the “largest genomic database linked to a health care system.” Researchers reviewed medical record data and questionnaires from 719,147 participants in the MVP between the years 2011 to 2019.  Overall, participants ranged in age from 40 to 99.  Of those, approximately 33,375 of the participants died during the term of the study.

The results of the study were recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held in Boston. Looking at the data, researchers evaluated health, lifestyle factors, and the impact of the timing in life when good lifestyle habits were adopted.

Noted researcher Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, a health science specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, “We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three, or all eight lifestyle factors.  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.”

The eight lifestyle habits identified in the study are straightforward and include:

  1. Maintain physical activity
  2. Refrain from regular binge drinking
  3. Follow good sleep hygiene
  4. Enjoy positive social relationships
  5. Avoid opioid addiction
  6. Manage stress
  7. Do not smoke
  8. Follow a good diet

The study found that men who had all eight habits at age 40 could be predicted to live 24 years longer than men who did not keep these habits.  For women, that number would be 21 additional years of life than women who did not pursue these habits.

In reaching these findings, study authors adjusted for age, body mass, race, ethnicity, sex, marital status, family income and education level. Overall, following these eight habits led to an overall 87 percent relative decrease in all-cause mortality.  That said, this was an observational study and does not prove these habits will lead to longer life in everyone.  Still?  It is food for thought.

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