Four healthy habits can add years to your life

August 3, 2011 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Four healthy habits can add years to your life

According to a new study, following a healthy lifestyle can add as many as 15 years to your life.

Women who have a healthy lifestyle - follow a Mediterranean diet, get regular exercise, not smoking, and maintain a healthy weight - are more likely to live 15 years longer than their less healthy counterparts. Men who have the same healthy habits live nearly 8.5 years longer than their less healthy peers.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, assessed the risk of early death among middle-aged people who scored differently on four healthy lifestyle factors: smoking, physical activity, diet pattern and body weight.  Those who scored low had the same risk of death as those who scored high but were much older.

The beneficial effects of a Mediterranean diet were more evident in women than in men.

Comparing the women with the least healthy scores to those with the healthiest, the risk of death was over 4 times higher. Men who scored the lowest had a 2.5 greater risk of early death.

The least healthy women had the same risk of death as the healthiest women who were 15.1 years older and for men this effect was 8.4 years.

These findings suggest that adherence to 4 key healthy lifestyle factors can substantially reduce premature death in women and men.

The following tips will help you incorporate elements of the Mediterranean diet into your own eating pattern.

Grains, vegetables, fruit. These foods should be eaten at most meals.  Choose whole grains that are minimally processed such and brown rice, barely, and whole grain pasta.

While all vegetables are nutritious, spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, garlic and green beans are staples in Mediterranean cuisine.  Fruit is typically served for dessert; choose whole fruit over fruit juice.

Olives, olive oil. This monounsaturated fat is the principal fat in the Mediterranean diet, replacing butter and margarine. Choose extra virgin olive oil which is higher in phytochemicals, compounds thought to reduce inflammation.

Fish, shellfish.  These high protein foods are low in saturated fat. Salmon, tuna, sardines and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  Eat grilled, sautéed or baked fish or shellfish two times per week.

Cheese, yogurt.  These dairy products are eaten daily in the Mediterranean diet, but in low to moderate amounts.

Legumes, nuts, seeds.  These foods add protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals to the diet.  Use them to add flavour and texture to dishes.

Eggs.  The Mediterranean diet includes up to four eggs per week, including those used in cooking and baking.

Meats.  Lean cuts of meat are eaten only a few times a month. In Mediterranean cuisine veal and lamb are most often consumed.  Poultry is also a lean protein choice.

Sweets. Dessert, such as sorbet and gelato, is served only a few times per week in small portions.

Wine.  Although wine is consumed regularly, it is consumed moderately and normally with meals. Limit your intake to one glass (5 ounces) per day for women and one to two for men.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.