April 01, 2021

Live healthier for longer with these lifestyle steps

Thanks to advances in medicine, science and public health, life expectancy has climbed to impressive heights. From 1900 to 2000, life expectancy in the U.S. jumped from 47.3 years to 76.8 years and has since increased to 78.6 years in 2017, or 76.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women.

This is great news. But how many of those years are spent in good health?

As we age, we want to stay healthy, active and independent. This concept is sometimes referred to as your health span — which has been defined as the period of life spent in good health, free from the chronic diseases and disabilities of aging — as opposed to your life span, or how long you live.

The steps to increase your likelihood of disease-free living are just what you'd expect: healthy lifestyle choices. Consider a recent study published in the BMJ. The study set out to see how five factors — not smoking, maintaining a healthy body mass index, performing regular moderate or vigorous physical activity, alcohol use in moderation, and eating a healthy diet — affected the number of years you would be expected to live without developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Expected years of life without these diseases rose with each healthy lifestyle factor engaged in, as seen in the table at right. Among participants without type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer at age 50, women with four or five elements of a healthy lifestyle were expected to live nearly 11 years...