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How to live longer in four easy steps

August 24, 2011 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 6 Comments

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 Having a “healthy diet” just meant meeting the outdated and wishy-washy USDA food pyramid guidelines.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

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Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

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  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/msadventuress/ 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. ♥

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ 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.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/HeidiWoodruff/ Heidi Woodruff

    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!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ 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 :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=580124234 Elizabeth Nedic Hawkes

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

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