Would you like to live longer?
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not entirely sure. Modern medicine has enabled prolonging the lives of people with debilitating chronic conditions, and if you witnessed the protracted suffering, diminished existence and slow decline of a loved one you might be less excited about extending your own time on earth.
But additional good years – extra time in which you’re disease-free and functioning fully, physically and mentally – are the best gift ever. We can all agree that extending disease-free life expectancy would be fantastic.
At what price, though? Upfront steep payment – as in near-starvation diets, which actually aren’t even proven to lengthen human life – resulting in lower quality years for a chance of tacking on bonus time at the other end of life is a precarious bet I’m not willing to even entertain.
There are reasonable measures, however, that are proven to slow the clock on disease and aging. Not smoking, exercising, keeping a normal weight and eating healthy food are all associated with disease-free extra years, and can be achieved while having a good time.
Healthy diet, extra years
A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looks at disease-free years after the age of 50 in 8000 people. The study finds that people who adhered to the dietary guidelines the most had 23.9 healthy years and were disease free until almost 74 years. Those who observed the food guidelines the least lost 2.5 healthy years, and started experiencing heart disease, stroke and diabetes at about age 71.4 years. These findings were independent of smoking, obesity and exercise, and the findings were similar across all socioeconomic groups.
Diet quality was scored according to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, which looks at 11 dietary components, and defines a high quality diet as one that has high intakes of things like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and a low intake of sugary drinks, trans-fats and processed meats.
Similarly, a recent study in BMJ following 73,000 female nurses and 38,000 male health professionals for 34 and 28 years respectively, found that a healthier diet adds about 4 healthy years to men and women.
Four extra good years – years free of heart disease, diabetes and cancer – just for eating better.
The BMJ study looked at four other lifestyle parameters: smoking, weight status, exercise and alcohol consumption. Adhering to the recommendations on each one…