Recent research on healthy aging shows that poor habits such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, inactivity and poor diet, can age you by 12 extra years.  The findings are from a recent study that tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years, aged 18 and older and 44 years old on average, and they highlight yet another reason to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Overall, 314 people studied had all four unhealthy behaviors. Among them, 91 died during the study, or 29%.  Among the 387 healthiest people with none of the four habits, only 32 died, or about 8%.  “Bad habits” are said to include: smoking tobacco, drinking in excess of three alcoholic drinks daily for men, two for women, engaging in less than two hours of physical activity per week, and consuming fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily.  These cumulative habits substantially increased the risk of death and made people in this group seem 12 years older than people in the healthiest group.  The most common causes of death in the study included heart disease and cancer, both known to be related to unhealthy lifestyles.  The study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  The healthy group included individuals who did not meet the criterion for “bad habits”.

It should be possible for most people to manage meeting the healthy test group’s habits, and further, each step in this direction reaps rewards of better health.  The U.S. government generally recommends at least 4 cups of fruits or vegetables daily for adults, depending on age and activity level; and about 2 1/2 hours of exercise weekly, which equates to thirty minutes daily five days a week.

In a separate American study, no progress appears to be being made with respect to changing “bad habits”.  The rates at which Americans take part in exercise remains unchanged since 1997.  We are a long way from where the health experts want us to be with respect to smoking.  Overall, about 66% of adults in the USA are either overweight or obese.  About one-third of people are in the obese category, meaning they have a body mass index of 30 or greater.  In yet another American study, extremely obese people, those who are 80 or more pounds overweight, live 3-12 fewer years than their normal-weight peers.