Healthy living is not only good for your health, but it can keep you young, too. Heart disease can be caused by smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet – bad habits that can make you look and feel older, according to new research.
A study that tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years suggests those three habits, along with drinking too much, can age you by 12 years.
Bad for your health
Overall, 314 people in the study had all four bad habits. Of those, 91 people or 29 percent died during the study. However, only 32 people or 8 percent of the 387 people studied with none of those bad habits died. The most common causes of death included heart disease and cancer, both related to unhealthy lifestyles.
The risky habits were smoking tobacco; drinking more than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women; getting less than two hours of physical activity per week; and eating fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily.
The study showed that all of those behaviors combined increased the risk of death and made people appear 12 years older than the people in the healthiest group.
The healthiest group included people who never smoked and those who had quit; teetotalers, women who had fewer than two drinks daily and men who had fewer than three; those who got at least two hours of physical activity weekly; and those who ate fruits and vegetables at least three times daily.
Researchers emphasized that following these good habits doesn’t have to be extreme. The U.S. government generally recommends at least four cups of fruits or vegetables daily for adults, depending on age and activity level; and about 2 1/2 hours of exercise weekly.
All is not lost if you engage in any of these bad habits because behavior can be changed. The Surgeon General has called smoking “the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the U.S.” Quitting will help you live longer, no matter your age or how long you’ve smoked. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who continue to smoke, according to the American Cancer Society.
Try to exercise 60 minutes every day or walk at least 10,000 steps a day, limit alcohol and eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Take a step in the right direction and you may start feeling and looking younger in no time.
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