Moreover, this life expectancy is accompanied by a 65% reduction in the risk of cancer and a 65% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. In health, no fatalism, simple and concrete actions produce great results.
Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and respiratory diseases alone are responsible for approximately 75% of all annual deaths. Contrary to what is often thought, a good proportion of mortality due to these chronic diseases is premature, that is to say that they do not only affect the very old, but also people in the force. of age and thereby amputate several years of active life.
” to live longer ”
Wrongly, we often perceive the appearance of these chronic diseases as bad luck, the consequence of genetic factors totally beyond our control and against which we can do nothing. However, a very large number of studies show that the vast majority of people who reach old age while maintaining good health owe it first and foremost to healthy lifestyle habits, and not to the presence of any genes. of longevity that would protect them from disease.
In other words, we must stop being fatalistic: it is possible to prevent the majority of chronic diseases and thus considerably increase both life expectancy and the quality of these additional years of life.
Harvard gives the 5 best lifestyle habits for good health
A remarkable study, recently published in the prestigious journal Circulation, represents possibly the best illustration to date of the immense potential of lifestyle habits in the prevention of premature mortality caused by chronic diseases.
To assess the impact of lifestyle on life expectancy, a group of scientists from Harvard University looked at data accumulated over several years on people who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study (78 865 women between 1980-2014, i.e. 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:
- the absence of smoking
- maintaining a healthy weight (body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2)
- 30 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per day
- a healthy diet, characterized by a high intake of plants, polyunsaturated and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, combined with a reduced intake of meats and processed meats, sugary drinks, trans fats and sodium.
- moderate alcohol consumption (5-15 g/day for women, which corresponds to one drink or less and 5-30 g/day for men, which corresponds to two drinks or less)
The authors determined that participants who did not adhere to any of these 5 lifestyle habits had a life expectancy at age 50 of about 29 years for women and 26 years for men. On the other hand, among those who had adopted these 5 habits, the gain is truly spectacular, rising to 43 years for women and 38 years for men, which corresponds to an increase in life expectancy of 14 and 12 years. , respectively. This is a major impact!
65% less risk of cancer and 65% less risk of cardiovascular disease
This increase in longevity reflects the remarkable positive impact of these 5 lifestyle habits on the risk of dying from the main diseases currently affecting the population, ie cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
People who adopt all of these habits have a risk of premature mortality from cancer reduced by 65% compared to people who did not adopt any of these lifestyle habits, while their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is reduced by 82%.
Mortality reductions of this magnitude show how essential our lifestyle habits are not only for living longer, but above all, and this is perhaps the most important point, for extending our healthy life expectancy by preventing the onset of serious chronic diseases.
Simple and effective lifestyle habits
The potential of the way of life to improve the state of health of the population remains little exploited. Despite their simplicity, it is estimated that less than 3% of the population applies 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, each habit taken individually has a positive impact and increases life expectancy by about 2-3 years.
The most important thing is to realize that it is possible to take concrete action on a daily basis to improve our health.
(1) Li Y et al. Impact of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectations in the US population. Circulation, published April 30, 2018.