Prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to leading a long and healthy life!

A comprehensive American study spanning more than 30 years has shown that living by five health markers can add around 12 years to the life of a man, and an amazing 14 years to that of a woman, compared to those who don’t follow the same healthy habits.

The study - the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of leading a low-risk lifestyle - was carried out by researchers at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. They looked at data from a 34-year study of almost 79,000 women and a 27-year study involving more than 44,000 men, both based on five key habits - not smoking, not drinking much, taking regular exercise, eating healthily and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Some participants met all five indicators whilst others didn’t. The results showed that, at the age of 50, men who didn’t meet all five markers could expect to live, on average, for another 25.5 years, while, for women, it was 29 years. For those who lived by the five healthy habits, however, life expectancy at 50 was projected to be another 37.6 years for men and 43 years for women!

Leading a lifestyle is good not just for our physical wellbeing, but also our mental health too. It also has other benefits, such as reducing premiums on insurances such as private medical insurance and critical illness cover! But, with the best will in the world, incorporating good habits into your daily life isn’t always easy. If you need a bit of help, here are our tips:

  1. Not smoking

Did you know that smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have a heart attack? Giving up smoking is the single biggest favour you can do for your heart health; quitting isn’t always easy, but the British Heart Foundation has lots of tips and advice, including changing your routine and getting the right support.

  1. Getting regular exercise

The NHS recommends that we do 150 minutes of ‘brisk’ exercise a week, which can be broken down into 10-minute slots or five 30-minute sessions. Children should aim to do an hour each day. Walking and jogging are popular, but there are many other options that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine, including climbing flights of stairs, gardening, skipping and even good old-fashioned park games (to be played with or without the kids - it’s up to you!).

  1. Not drinking too much

Latest guidelines recommend that men and women are safest restricting alcohol intake to 14 units per week - the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine or five pints of lager with a strength of 5%. It’s better to spread these units over three or four days, whilst pregnant women are advised not to drink at all. If you’re worried that you or someone you love is drinking too much, get in touch with DrinkAware.

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight

As a nation, we’re becoming increasingly overweight, with those born between the early 80s and mid 90s set to become the fattest generation yet. The 34-year study of women, above, dispelled the myth of ‘healthy obesity’, finding that women who were overweight or obese, but with no other risk factors, were still 20% and 39% respectively more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women of a healthy weight. Being overweight also increases the risk of a number of cancers, including breast, bowel and kidney cancer.

  1. Following a healthy diet

Many of us are eating more calories than we should be - and not doing the exercise needed to work it off! According to the NHS Live Well programme, men need around 2,500 calories per day and women around 2,000, with starchy carbs such as potatoes, pasta and wholegrain rice making up a third of your intake. Aim to eat two portions of oily fish a week, and don’t forget your fruit and veg!