Longevity: Top US health body says 3 behaviours determine how long you live; what’s your score?

Kirti Pandey

Updated Dec 31, 2021 | 17:27 IST

If you want a long, healthy life, it will help to know what you can do to help yourself reach that goal. Dr Michael Greger, MD, a US-based doctor has been dispelling myths associated with health matters and sharing wisdom that benefits all. Here’s what he shares about a six-year-long study carried out by the apex US health body that throws light on what determines longevity.

Live it up and live a long, happy, healthy life.

Live it up and live a long, happy, healthy life.&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Good health or long life are not accidents of nature but the result of choices one makes through many years of life.

  • For too long, mankind has been on the hunt for the formula that grants longer, healthier lives, if not eternity.

  • Now Dr Michael Greger, a celebrated US doctor, tells about a CDC study that has pointed to 3 behaviours that reduce our chances of dying early.

Mankind has not seen a more tense era in terms of health at least in the recent history of the race. From the beginning of 2020, the monster of COVID-19 that originated in Wuhan (China) has been chasing us but with vaccines at hand, the battle has become a lot less tough. As we bid goodbye to 2021, and get set to usher in the new year, the key question on most minds is “What can we do to increase our own longevity and improve our chances of living healthier in 2023 and beyond?:

Remember Dr Michael Greger’s advice on “Hypertension: How to lower Blood Pressure naturally with lifestyle changes; an American MD shares the hacks”? Well, now the same good doctor has brought out another video on Longevity, wherein, he mentions a six-year-long study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found THREE Key factors that determine A HEALTHY, LONG LIFE – that exert an enormous impact on health and overall mortality.

Dr Greger is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. A founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr Greger is licensed as a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition.  

Dr Greger says that the CDC study found that adopting just these three simple behaviours reduced people’s chances of dying by 82 per cent during the course of the study.

  1. Consuming a healthier diet,
  2. Not smoking, and
  3. Moderately exercising for at least 21 minutes a day

How to follow the 3 key behaviours:

  1. Consuming a Healthier Diet: According to Dr Greger, if you want to get a total-body transformation underway without even going to the store “Just start building meals around whole plant foods already in your pantry.” Dr Michael Greger, M.D has authored mega-sellers like How Not to Die and How Not to Diet.  Avoid processed food and choose options like whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, brown rice, beans, tomato sauce, nuts, frozen fruit and veggies. He cites a similar study that measured how much vitamin C subjects had in their bloodstreams, as vitamin C level was considered a good biomarker of plant-food intake (and hence was used as a proxy for a healthy diet). The drop in mortality risk among those with healthier habits was equivalent to being 14 years younger. You may also have heard of the mitochondrial theory of ageing that points out how free radical damage to our cells’ power source (mitochondria) leads to a loss of cellular energy and function over time and causes us to age. Ageing and disease have been thought of as the oxidation of the body but eating antioxidant-rich foods may slow down this oxidant process. If you relish only animal food, this is going to be a wake-up call for you as, on average, plant foods may contain 64 times more antioxidants than animal foods. The mantra for healthier eating is to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices with each meal to continuously flood our body with antioxidants and help it ward off stroke and other age-related diseases, promoting longevity, writes Dr Michael Greger.
  2. Not smoking now: Dr Greger points out how consuming fruits and veggies, and NOT SMOKING, has also been associated with longer protective telomeres, the caps on the tips of our chromosomes that keep DNA from unravelling. According to UChicagoMedicine, your body accumulates wear and tear as you age, but it’s not just muscle aches and bad knees. Your chromosomes get shorter too. When cells grow and divide, tiny bits of the ends of chromosomes called telomeres are lost. It says “They’re like aglets, the plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces that keep the threads from fraying.” Dr Michael Greger points out that “Each time our cells divide, a bit of that cap is lost. Telomeres can start shortening as soon as we’re born, and when they’re gone, we’re gone. The food we eat may impact how fast we lose our telomeres: Consumption of refined grains, soda, meat, and dairy has been linked to shortened telomeres, while fruit, vegetable, and other antioxidant-rich plant food intake has been associated with longer ones.” When smoking behaviour over the 16 years of the new study was incorporated into the analysis, the researchers found a clear link between smoking and shortened telomeres in both men and women; men with shorter telomeres tend to quit smoking in later life because of poor health, concluded another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
  3. Moderately exercising for at least 21 minutes a day: Lockdown and Work-From-Home models have snatched away the benefits of long commutes that we did not value until they stopped coming. Sitting is the next smoking they say, and rightly so. Dr Greger says in, “My Daily Dozen recommends one daily “serving” of exercise, which can be split up over the day. Aim for at least 40 minutes of vigorous movements, such as jogging or participating in active sports, or 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, like brisk (four miles per hour) walking. Again, you don’t have to exercise in one lump of time—just try to meet at least that minimum recommendation each day throughout the day.” Take the dog out for a walk, go on awe walks yourself. Enjoy and appreciate nature. Play games. “The more you get up from your desk or couch, the more you avoid sitting for long stretches, the better. My daily “dose” of exercise may seem daunting, but you’ll quickly see how it is imminently doable,” writes Dr Greger. 

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.

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