With all the advances in medicine, nutrition, and science, in terms of life expectancy, where do you think the U.S. ranks compared to the rest of the world?

First? Fifth? Twentieth?

Nope, nope, and nope: At an average expectancy of 76.3 years, the U.S. comes in 43rd out of 195 countries. 

And it gets worse. By 2040, researchers predict the U.S. will have fallen to 64th in the world.

In a study 34-year study of more than 100,000 people, the researchers determined there are five factors that contribute most to living longer:

  1. Eat a healthy diet
  2. Get regular exercise
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight
  4. Don't smoke
  5. Drink alcohol in moderation

The list contains no surprises -- but does lead to a surprising conclusion. Based on the data, say you...

  • Exercise at least thirty minutes a day
  • Maintain a "low" BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9
  • Drink no more than two glasses of wine (men) or one glass (women) per day
  • Don't smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet 

Do those things and compared to people who don't meet any of those criteria, if you're a woman your life expectancy improves from 79 to 93.1 years old. If you're a man, your life expectancy increases from 75.5 to 87.6 years old.

Yep: Women get 14 additional years; men get 12 more years. 

While such a sizable difference in life expectancy might seem farfetched, think about it this way. The top five determinants of average lifespan are "lifestyle" diseases: Obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and alcohol and tobacco use.

Take body weight: Being overweight or obese is linked to serious health consequences like heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.

That's why the people who met the five criteria were 82 percent less likely than those who did not to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 percent less likely to die from cancer.

Yep: Big numbers.

So if you want to live longer -- and who doesn't? -- the path is simple. 

Simple, yet hard. Anyone who tries to tell you that eating right, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy body weight is easy... is either lying, or trying to sell you something.

But you definitely can do it -- especially since the payoff, both short- and long-term, is so huge.

If you're overweight, start eating healthier. Start exercising more. That will actually knock three items off the list, since the combination of a better diet and more exercise will also reduce your body fat percentage.

Then keep your alcohol intake moderate. (It's okay to exceed the limit once in a while; the goal is to stay at or below an average of the equivalent of one or two glasses of wine.)  And do everything you possibly can to stop smoking.

Keep in mind that even if you don't meet all five criteria, meeting a few will still pay off. Researchers found a "dose-response relationship" between each individual healthy lifestyle behavior and a reduced risk of early death. Iin non researcher-speak, that means any lifestyle improvements you make will positively impact your life expectancy.

Lower your BMI and you should live longer. Exercise more and you should live longer. Eat healthier and you should live longer. 

And you'll feel better today.

Win-win.

Published on: Dec 7, 2018
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