|Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health photo|
It may sound easy enough, but the study also found that fewer people are adhering to these healthy habits: 8 percent between 2001 to 2006, down from 15 percent between 1988 to 1992. Researchers say the decline is "driven primarily by the increasing prevalence of obesity."
Americans also have a shorter average life expectancy than almost all other wealthy nations, ranking 31st in the world for life expectancy in 2015, says a news release about the study.
"In other words, women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, and men who did so gained 12 years, compared with those who didn’t maintain healthy habits," the release says.
The study at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published in the journal Circulation, looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 27 years of data from 44,354 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
The study defined "regular" exercise as moderate or vigorous activity for at least 30 minutes a day. Moderate drinking was defined as no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women, and no more than two per day for men. And a "healthy" diet was scored by giving points to those who ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, fish and poultry and "good" fats. It also gave points to those with diets low in sugar, sodium and red meat.
The study found that adopting any one of the healthy lifestyles resulted in an increase in life expectancy, and that adopting all five produced the most additional years of life. (Click on chart for larger version.)