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Harvard’s 5 lifestyle habits to live healthier longer

Harvard University researchers just published a study showing that by incorporating 5 simple lifestyle habits, you can achieve a healthy 12-14 year life expectancy. In addition, this life expectancy is associated with a 65 percent reduction in cancer risk and a 65 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. In health, no fatalism, simple and concrete actions will bring great results.

Chronic diseases alone, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and respiratory diseases, are responsible for about 75% of all deaths each year. Contrary to what is often assumed, a large part of the mortality from these chronic diseases is premature, which means that they not only affect the very old, but also people of advanced age, thereby amputating several years of active life.

“live longer”

We often mistakenly perceive the onset of these chronic diseases as unfortunate, the result of genetic factors that are totally beyond our control and that we cannot do anything about. However, a very large number of studies show that the vast majority of people who reach old age and still remain healthy owe this primarily to a healthy lifestyle and not to the presence of longevity genes that would protect them from disease.

In other words, we must stop being fatalistic: it is possible to prevent most chronic diseases, thereby vastly increasing both life expectancy and the quality of those extra years of life.

Harvard gives the 5 best lifestyle habits for good health

A remarkable study recently published in the prestigious journal Circulation is perhaps the best illustration yet of the immense potential of lifestyle choices in preventing premature mortality from chronic diseases.

To assess the impact of lifestyle on life expectancy, a group of researchers from Harvard University examined data collected over several years from people who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study (78,865 women between 1980-2014, ie 34 years). , and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (44,354 men between 1986-2014, i.e. 27 years). The large number of participants and the very long duration of the study allowed them to identify 5 main lifestyle factors that were associated with significant differences in the life expectancy of these people:

1) the absence of smoking

2) maintaining a healthy weight (body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2)

3) 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day

4) a healthy diet characterized by high intakes of plants, polyunsaturated fats, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids combined with reduced intakes of meat and processed meats, sugary beverages, trans fats, and sodium.

5) moderate alcohol consumption (5-15 g/day for women, which is equivalent to one drink or less, and 5-30 g/day for men, which is equivalent to two drinks or less)

The authors found that participants who did not adhere to any of these 5 lifestyle habits had a life expectancy of about 29 years for women and 26 years for men at age 50. On the other hand, for those who have adopted these 5 habits, the gain is truly spectacular, rising to 43 years for women and 38 years for men, an increase in life expectancy of 14 and 12 years respectively. This is a big impact!

65% reduced risk of cancer and 65% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

This increase in life expectancy reflects the remarkably positive impact of these 5 lifestyle choices on the risk of dying from the major diseases currently affecting the population, namely cardiovascular disease and cancer.

People who adopt all of these habits have a 65% reduced risk of premature cancer mortality compared to people who have not adopted any of these lifestyle habits, while their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is reduced by 82%.

Mortality declines of this magnitude show how important our lifestyle choices are not only to longer lives but, and perhaps most importantly, to prolonging our healthy lifespans by preventing the onset of serious chronic diseases.

Simple and effective lifestyle habits

The potential of the lifestyle to improve the health of the population is still little used. Despite their simplicity, it is estimated that less than 3% of the population uses these five principles of preventive medicine on a daily basis. If these changes seem too difficult for you, tell yourself that every gesture counts: in the study mentioned here, every habit you individually adopt has a positive effect and increases life expectancy by about 2-3 years.

The most important thing is to realize that it is possible to take concrete actions every day to improve our health.


(1) Li Y et al. Influence of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancy in the US population. Edition published on April 30, 2018.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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