Dev Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Medical Director, Apeiron Life
Fellow, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Institute For Joint Restoration, Menlo Park, CA
September 29, 2020
- Five key daily habits can meaningfully add to your healthspan: eating whole fiber rich foods, moderate intensity exercise 30 minutes daily, maintain a healthy body weight through the first two habits, don’t smoke, and limit alcohol intake.
- The “sixth habit” is to maintain social interactions. During Covid restrictions maintain physical distancing for safety but stay socially connected
Practicing five habits consistently may add 10 years or more to your life, according to a landmark 2018 study from Harvard University researchers. Additionally, the quality of our social interactions has a major effect on healthspan, especially as we age.
The best part? All of these daily habits can be done now during our Covid restrictions.
You might already know that compared to other first world countries, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is surprisingly low. We rank 38th in the world at 78.9 years.
Of course, many people live much longer than that. In the Harvard study, the authors tracked 123,000 people over three decades to figure out why.
The Five Habits Of Healthy Living:
- Eat lots of whole, fiber-rich foods. The people who lived longest ate lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. Their diet was also lower in red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fat, and sodium.
- Exercise 30 minutes per day at moderate to vigorous intensity. Note that this adds up to 210 minutes per week, which is higher than the typically recommended 150 minutes per week.
- Maintain a healthy body weight, defined as a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. Good news: if you follow points one and two above you’ll have a great chance to lower your body fat and overall body weight if you’re starting off high.
- Avoid smoking. This is pretty self-explanatory.
- Consume alcohol in moderation, defined as 1 drink/day for women and 2/day for men. However, the guidelines may soon change to 1 drink/day for everyone, as more and more research indicates that even 2 drinks daily carries health risks.
The Sixth Habit: Quality Social Interactions
This part has gotten harder during our Covid restrictions as many people became isolated from social contact. I’ve always been really bothered by the phrase “social distancing” as I believe this is absolutely the wrong phrase. What we really want is physical distancing while maintaining social connections.
Social relationships have as much impact on healthspan as blood pressure, smoking, physical activity, and obesity, as demonstrated in 1988 by House and colleagues. Their meta-analysis of 148 longitudinal studies found a 50 percent increase in survival of people with robust social relationships, regardless of age, gender, country of origin, or how such relationships were defined. Just as obesity has taken center stage in our cultural self-awareness, social relationships belong on the list of potent risk and protective factors for morbidity and mortality.
The healthier habits people had, the longer they lived and with better quality of life. Even practicing just one of the above (it doesn’t matter which one), extended life span by two years in both men and women.