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Healthy Habits for a Long Life
Advances in medicine and technology mean that humans today are living longer on average than ever before. However, many habits and lifestyle factors still play a significant role in average life expectancy.
Smoking is perhaps the most obvious habit that can negatively impact life expectancy. According to researchers from the University of Bristol, smoking tobacco shortens a person’s life expectancy by 6-7 years as compared to a non-smoker. Diet can also play an important role in life expectancy, and research is suggesting a particularly strong link between eating polyunsaturated fats and reduced mortality. Polyunsaturated fats are found in cold water fish, such as salmon, trout, and herring. They also come from plants like avocados, olives, walnuts, and oils, including soybean, corn, and olive oils. Researchers in Sweden measured the blood levels of polyunsaturated fats in 60-year-old men and women and then followed them for almost 15 years. High levels of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid found in vegetable oils, was linked to a 27% reduction in mortality during the study. High levels of EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, were linked to a 20% reduction in mortality.
The World Health Organization recommends an average of at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. However any amount of activity is beneficial to health, even if falls below the recommended amount. A sample of 400,000 adults in Taiwan were asked about their exercise habits and followed for eight years. The researchers found that compared to being inactive, 15 minutes of activity each day resulted in a 14 % reduction in all-cause mortality. They also found that there was a further 4% reduction for every additional 15 minutes of activity averaged. These findings show that although small amounts of activity are beneficial, more exercise leads to greater benefits.
There is no such thing as a fountain of youth, so practicing healthy habits is important to not only longevity, but also quality of life. It’s never too late to begin making healthier behaviors a part of your normal routine, but the longer you practice them, the greater the benefits.