Five Heart-Healthy Habits That Could Elongate Your Life

Following five lifestyle habits can lower your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 82%. They can also make you 65% less likely to die from cancer. And choosing to embrace these five healthy habits may extend your life by 12-14 years.

Dr. Laura Fernandes at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute has encouraged our patients to follow heart-healthy lifestyle tips for years. But now, for the first time ever, experts from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have documented the real impact of lifestyle habits on your life expectancy.

They reviewed decades of information about many thousands of women and men. They carefully evaluated their lifestyle habits, chronic diseases, and death records. And they verified five critical habits that could change your life.

Each habit alone can extend your life, but in the study, women who followed all five lived 14 years longer, and men lived 12 years longer compared to people who didn’t follow the same habits.

Here are the five lifestyle changes:

1. Stick with a healthy eating pattern

You’ve heard it before, but the age-old advice to follow a healthy diet is one of the key habits for staying healthy and living longer.

You can’t eat well one day or even one week every month and expect to get the same results. You need to create and follow a daily eating pattern that gives you the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats (omega-3s and polyunsaturated fats).

At the same time, healthy eating means limiting salt, red meat, and processed meats. It’s also important to avoid added sugars, especially beverages with high-fructose corn syrup.

2. Follow a regular exercise routine

The physical and psychological benefits of exercise have been known for a long time. Now this study further verifies that exercise can extend your life.

Exercise can:

As one of the five lifestyle habits, you need at least 3 1/2 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week.

3. Maintain a healthy body weight

Being overweight or obese shaves years off your life. Carrying extra weight significantly increases your risk of developing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Carrying extra weight also raises the chance of getting certain cancers. For example, being overweight makes women 2-4 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer, while overweight men and women have double the risk of liver cancer.

To reap the benefits, you need to reach your healthy body weight and keep it steady, without a lot of ups and downs. To do that, you should avoid fad diets and create an eating and exercise plan you can live with for the rest of your life.

4. Stop smoking (or don’t start)

Smoking is the main preventable cause of death in the United States, so stopping smoking goes a long way toward lengthening your life.

You already know that smoking is the top cause of lung cancer. But this bad habit is also directly associated with many other cancers, including colon, bladder, mouth, and pancreatic cancer.

Smoking is also a major contributor to heart disease. The chemicals you inhale harm your blood cells, damage the structure of your heart and blood vessels, and raise your risk of atherosclerosis (fatty plaque that builds up on blood vessel walls and blocks blood flow).

Even if you’re a light or occasional smoker, or you’re exposed to secondhand smoke, it still affects your cardiovascular system.

5. Drink alcohol in moderation

The researchers at Harvard found that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is one of the five healthy habits. A moderate amount means one 5-ounce glass of wine each day for women and two for men.

One or two glasses of wine may boost good cholesterol. And the plant-based nutrients in wine can also relax your blood vessels.

If you’re not a wine drinker, don’t worry. Exercise also increases your good cholesterol, and colorful foods like purple grapes, carrots, and berries are great sources of the same phytonutrients.

If you need help with changing your lifestyle habits, contact our office in The Woodlands, Texas, or book an appointment online.

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