Live seven years longer with three simple steps

Do you want to tack an extra seven disability-free years onto your lifespan? (Really, do I even have to ask?)

Well, you can. And it’s shockingly easy to do, once you get the hang of it. Just three steps are all it takes:

  1. Stop smoking
  2. Drink moderately
  3. Maintain a healthy weight

That’s all you need to do, according to a new study. And seeing as how these steps are based on the same advice I’ve been giving you for years, nothing about them should surprise you.

Aside from their results, of course… which are nothing short of astonishing.

This recent analysis used data from the National Health and Retirement Study, collected between 1998 and 2012 from nearly 15,000 older American men and women. When measured against the whole U.S. population, the healthiest group of subjects had a life expectancy that was seven full years longer. Disability onset, meanwhile, was delayed by as many as six years.

And the only things these subjects did differently was to avoid cigarettes, obesity, and heavy drinking. Three incredibly simple things… with a stunning payoff.

While the average American man and woman will live 78 years and 82 years respectively, life expectancies in this group averaged 85 years for men and 89 years for women.

Compared to subjects with the worst habits, the difference was even more pronounced. At age 50, women who had smoked, were obese, or who didn’t drink moderately died 12 years earlier than the women who maintained healthy behaviors on all three fronts. Among men, the gap was just over 11 years.

All of these lifestyle factors also had independent associations with early disability — but of the three, obesity was (unsurprisingly) the strongest.

In the past, studies have only really looked at the impact that single lifestyle choices, like smoking or drinking, have on your health. This study, however, chose to focus on the influence of multiple factors put together — and it’s pretty incredible to see what a difference they can make.

I remarked earlier that these all seem like easy goals to meet. But sadly, by the ages of 50 to 59, nearly 80 percent of the adults in this country will have had a history of smoking, obesity, or both. That number hasn’t budged since the 70s (despite the fact that fewer people smoke), all thanks to the ever-expanding obesity epidemic.

But there is some good news here. Which is that subjects who had kicked cigarettes at least a decade before the start of the study still enjoyed very long, disability-free lives, provided they maintained both a reasonable weight and moderate drinking habits.

Which just goes to show that it’s never too late to turn your health around.

It’s not hard to imagine what would happen if everyone simply made these three simple changes. There would be need for fewer drugs, for starters. The health care system would be less burdened. And ultimately, there’d probably be a lot less junk food consumed, too. Bad news all around for the pockets of Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Agribusiness, and Monsanto.

Come to think of it, that is pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it?