How to live longer in four easy steps

How to live longer in four easy steps

The CDC published a paper this week in the American Journal of Public Health suggesting that eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake can add more than a decade to our lives. And the criteria were not very strict. One could meet the “regular exercise” definition by exercising just 3 times a week, and even “never smoked” allowed smoking up to 100 cigarettes. Having a “healthy diet” just meant meeting the outdated and wishy-washy USDA food pyramid guidelines. Still, though, despite the lax definitions, fewer than 5% of Americans achieved all four minimal healthy behaviors. In my video-of-the-day today I detail just how SAD the Standard American Diet is.

Previous studies looking at the impact of healthy lifestyles on extending one’s lifespan used different dietary criteria. The ARC study, for example, in their paper “Turning Back the Clock,” just rewarded fruit and vegetable intake (indeed, last week another study was published showing that vegetable consumption may reduce telomere erosion). The Healthy Aging (HALE) study likewise gave points for plant foods but also penalized for meat or dairy, while EPIC measured the levels of vitamin C in people’s blood, a decent proxy for healthy eating since it’s a nutrient found almost exclusively in plants. Today’s video-of-the-day details an elegant healthy eating index based on phytonutrient density. Find out what most people score, and how to turn your own diet into a “perfect 10.”

-Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: jugglerpm / Flickr

More blogs on CDC study:
Study: People Live Longer If They Practice One or More Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors
Eat Well, Move Often, Don’t Smoke, Drink a Little — and Live Long

  • MsAdventuress

    Brilliant. The resources continue to amaze me. The video pie chart made such a statement about our common SAD diets. Shocking. But it *is* easy and possible to change. Often, thinking about it is the hard part. But simply doing it, in small steps, really does work. ♥

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I agree with the “just do it” sentiment. I suggest folks check out Dr. Barnard’s 21 Day Kickstart for that kind of action-oriented approach.

  • I wanted to thank you for posting this great info for free, I am hoping my non vegan friends and family will finally listen to your life saving information!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I hope your vegan friends will too! In the age of vegan doughnuts most everyone can work on improving their diets :)

  • Dr Greger, Is there something that can be done to reverse the amount of telomeres already shortened?

  • kngfshr

    I recently heard a reference to this article published over a year ago. I am somewhat new to this site, so I am not sure if this study has been discussed before. An article in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Vol 62, Issue 3, March 2014) states that animal protein is beneficial to older men. This study was conducted in Japan and indicated that daily intake of animal protein may help prevent functional decline in elderly men. This study sites 2 others (Protein intake and incident frailty in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, J Am Geriatric Society 2010 and Dietar protein intake and subsequent falls in older men and women: The Framingham Study, J Nutriton Health and Aging 2011) as supporting correlation (not causation) between animal protein consumption and functionality in the elderly. On p. 423, the article does state that “Men with the lowest intake of animal protein tended to have greater intake of energy, carbohydrates, and carbohydrate-containing food (rice, bread, noodles) and lower intake of potassium, vegetable, and fruits than men who had the highest intake of animal protein.” It goes on to state that men with lower animal protein intake have a tendency to eat a less-healthy diet. So is it the increase in animal protein or the overall, healthier diet, that includes more fruits and vegetables?