Four simple behaviors can help you live a longer, healthier life
What is the best way to ensure you live a longer, healthier life? Is it exercising? A healthy diet? Not smoking? Limiting alcohol intake?
In short, all of the above. While each behavior is critical in its own right to enjoying a healthy life, combining these four behaviors might be the best way to extend your golden years. Those who follow the aforementioned behaviors “live on average an additional 14 years compared with people who don’t embrace any of these,” a recent study indicated in the online journal PloS Medicine.
Researchers polled 20,000 men and women in the United Kingdom between the ages of 45-79. The study participants completed a questionnaire by designating one point for each of the behaviors they currently embrace: not smoking, being physically active, limiting alcohol intake to two pints of beer or wine per week, and eating five servings of fruit or vegetables daily.
A score of 0 indicates the subject did not do any of the behaviors while a score of 4 showed that the subject performed all of the behaviors. The study found that “over an average period of 11 years, people with a score of 0 were four times more likely to have died than those who had scored 4 in the questionnaire.”
“Furthermore, a person with a health score of 0 had the same risk of dying as someone 14 years older who had scored 4 in the questionnaire. The authors state that several small changes in lifestyle could have a marked impact on health.”
Another study in the Archives of Internal Medicine analyzed 2,357 men, of which 970 lived to the age of 90 or older, and found that “smoking, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension significantly reduced the likelihood of a 90-year life span, while regular vigorous exercise substantially improved it.”
“Furthermore, men with a life span of 90 or more years also had better physical function, mental well-being, and self-perceived health in late life compared with men who died at a younger age. Adverse factors associated with reduced longevity – smoking, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle – also were significantly associated with poorer functional status in elderly years.”
Are you getting what you need?
In regards to exercise, many seniors believe they are active, even when they aren’t, one study in the August 2010 issue of Ageing and Society suggest.
It is recommended that people commit 30 minutes to moderate physical activity five days per week, if not more. The survey, among 2,111 seniors ages 60-69, found that “most respondents were unaware of the physical activity goal [of 30 minutes per day for five days per week] and many felt they were ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ physically active compared to others in their age group.”
Those battling obesity, not working, or living with a chronic condition, were less likely to engage in physical activity.
The survey authors said, “Older adults had unrealistic views of their activity levels and of work and lack of time as barriers to physical activity. More attention needs to be paid to health promotion and education among over-sixties, especially those not in paid work.”
Most understand the importance of proper nutrition as well. But what should you eat and how much?
The United States Department of Agriculture developed daily food plans to serve as a guideline of nutritional needs. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov to learn more. Here are the basics:
- 3 cups of dairy (non-fat milk, yogurt, cheeses)
- 5 ounces of proteins (lean meats, fish, beans, peas, etc.)
- 2 cups of vegetables (use variety)
- 1-1/2 cups of fruits (use variety)
- 5 ounces of grains (at least 3 ounces should be whole grains)
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