Healthy Lifestyle Helps to Increase Life Expectancy and Delay Disability

Average age of disability for individuals with and without behavioral risk factors.

Average age of disability for individuals with and without behavioral risk factors.

A healthy lifestyle is associated with improved health outcomes later in life. Research has found that those who have not smoked, not been obese, and drank alcohol in moderation had longer life expectancy and delayed the onset of disability.  Nearly 80% of Americans have reached their fifties having smoked, been obese, or both.  Researchers studied those who were ages 50 or older who never had any of these risk factors. They found that these individuals had a favorable behavioral profile, meaning they were more inclined to have positive health outcomes.  These individuals had a life expectancy at age 50 that was 7 years longer than those with these risk factors.  Additionally, these individuals delayed the onset of disability by up to 6 years.  In other words, having a favorable behavioral profile and establishing a healthy lifestyle when they were younger helped to increase life expectancy and delay the onset of disability.  These findings illustrate the damaging effects that behavioral risks have on health at older ages.

This study emphasizes the importance of establishing healthy behaviors early in your life, however, it is never too late to adopt healthy lifestyle habits.  A separate research study found that adopting 5 healthy lifestyle habits midlife (age 50) can add up to 10 years to your life expectancy.  Additionally, they note that each single lifestyle change adopted will help an individual live longer and better.  The five healthy lifestyle habits they note are not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, adopting a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight (BMI <25), and engaging in regular exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Coupled together, these findings demonstrate the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle for increasing life expectancy and delaying disability onset.  It is important to note that it is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle and that even at age 50, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help add 10 years onto your life expectancy.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing support for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and increasing life expectancy.

By Matt Lewandowski

 

Sources:  Mehta, M. & Myrskyla, N. (2017).  The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle:  Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed.  Health Affairs, 36(8), 1495-1502; Li et al. (2018). Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population.  Circulation, 137(2).