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Does adopting a healthy lifestyle at midlife add longevity or prevent disease?

Does adopting a healthy lifestyle at midlife add longevity or prevent disease?

As I have gone through life as a physician, I have encouraged so many patients to start living in a maximally healthy way. Meanwhile, however, I have seen so many people live to be a very old age despite doing everything incorrectly, which is almost like a reward despite living in a very unhealthy way. It has made me question over the years exactly how much of our outcomes are nature (destiny from our own DNA) and how much nurture (from healthy living).
Earlier this year, Harvard released results from their long-awaited study to help sort this out. They had approximately 111,000 people at age 50 enrolled in the study and followed them for 34 years. They checked on these patients regularly to assess their adherence to healthy versus non-healthy lifestyle choices. They measured the following five components of a healthy lifestyle: maintaining an ideal body weight (normal BMI), healthy diet, moderate to vigorous exercise, moderate alcohol intake, and no smoking.
The primary endpoint of the study was life expectancy free from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Men who were able to meet all healthy lifestyle measures added an additional 7.6 disease-free years to their lives. For women, they added an additional 10.7 years of disease-free life.
This shows that it is never too late to make healthful lifestyle changes. I will now encourage even more of my 50-year-olds to make changes and reap the benefits of an additional 7–11 years of disease-free life expectancy. I think most of us have always thought that living in a healthy way was a good idea, but it is both helpful and hopeful to find out that it matters even more than we likely expected. Although we cannot change our DNA or prevent random, unfortunate events from occurring, there are some simple, consistent things that we can do to greatly improve our quality and quantity of life.
On a different note, I also wanted to extend our appreciation for having each of you in our practice. It has been a busy, start-up year for our practice, but we remain committed to maximizing your health and responding to your needs as quickly as possible. It is truly an honor and a privilege to provide care for each of you!
Doug Mattingly, MD

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