7 Habits of Highly Healthy People

A recent article by Bill Murphy Jr. for Inc.com summarizes research findings related to more than 600,000 patient histories which figured out via statistical inferences how much extra time good habits can add to your life.

“The findings were published this month in an article entitled “Genome-wide meta-analysis associates HLA-DQA1/DRB1 and LPA and lifestyle factors with human longevity” in the journal Nature Communications.

1. Never starting smoking.

The life expectancy difference was very specific. On average, “smoking a pack a day reduces lifespan by seven years,” said Peter Joshi, another of the study’s co-authors, who is a chancellor’s fellow at the Usher Institute.

2. Reducing cholesterol.

Here, the scientists examined the presence of a gene that affects blood cholesterol level. People who had the gene, which leads to higher levels, had reduced life spans, by about eight months. While you can’t help whether you have the gene or not, you can affect your cholesterol level with diet.

3. Losing weight.

Here, the researchers looked at overweight people who then managed to lose weight. The results are very specific. For every kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) lost, lifespan increased by two months. So, if you’ve been talking forever about losing those stubborn 20 pounds, you could add a year and a half to your life by doing so.

4. Quitting smoking.

If you currently smoke, you probably have enough people in your life telling you that you need to quit, but here’s some extra motivation: Regardless of what other health issues might linger after you smoke that last cigarette, the researchers said there is a point at which a former smoker can have quit long enough to offset those “seven lost years” (from No. 1 above), and regain the longevity of someone who never smoked.

5. Being open-minded and open to new experiences.

This is probably the least quantifiable habit that the researchers studied, but exhibiting “a personality trait reflecting curiosity vs. caution,” according to the study, added longevity to people’s lives. (Whether the subjects of the study exhibited curiosity or caution was based on self-reported data from a questionnaire, according to the study authors.)

6. Gaining more education.

Here’s one for lifelong learning: For each year spent studying past secondary school, people added 11 months to their lives. It’s an open question whether longevity is impacted by the experience of higher learning itself or the fact that, statistically, people with more education are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors (chief among them: smoking cigarettes).

7. Reducing your blood pressure.

Besides smoking, the second-most impactful factor on longevity that the researchers found was systolic blood pressure: high blood pressure has “causal life-shortening effects” of 5.2 years on average. Controlling blood pressure is a matter of diet, exercise, and sometimes medication, so a variety of habits come into play here.

Bonus: Engaging in high levels of physical activity.

In a separate study, researchers at Brigham Young University examined the daily exercise of 5,823 adults. They found that those who engaged in physical activity equivalent to at least 30-40 minutes of fast walking or jogging five days a week had cells that mimicked the average “telomere lengths” of average people nine years younger.”

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