C-Force: So Much Standing in the Way of Healthy Habits

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A new study has identified eight lifestyle habits that, if adopted, may significantly extend a person's lifespan. You may have read about this. It was widely reported. Could this be a much-needed answer to the announcement in April that life expectancy in the U.S is now the shortest it's been in nearly two decades?

Responding to the news, Michelle Williams, Dean of Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, expanded on why the diminishing life expectancy findings are so shocking. In an interview on WP Live, a podcast from The Washington Post, Williams added that "younger people in America are dying at high rates than their counterparts in other high-income countries," and that the U.S. also has among "the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among upper-income countries."

While pointing out that the U.S. is a leader in medical and health innovation, Williams goes on say that "we are different (than other high-income countries) ... we emphasize rescue care, acute care at the expense of investing in, supporting, and enabling health promotion and disease prevention." This seems to prove to be a fatal flaw.

According to Dr. Yanping Li, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a co-author of the study, "The purpose is to let the general audience and the clinical physician to understand how much the difference (is) if they do this or that, so it's kind of (to help) them to explain to the patient why it's so important to adopt a healthier lifestyle."

So, what are these eight lifestyle habits? Let us count the ways. Reports Medical News Today, the list includes being physically active, not smoking, managing your stress, maintaining a good diet, avoiding drinking alcohol excessively, practicing good sleep hygiene, maintaining positive social relationships, and not developing an opioid addiction.

The data used for this study was collected between 2011 and 2019 and featured U.S. veterans between the ages of 40 and 99 enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program, a health research program centering around more than a million United States veterans.


Writes Medical News Today's Beth JoJack, "The study found that men who have adopted all eight habits at the age of 40 would be predicted to live 24 years longer, on average, than men who adopted none of these habits. Women who have adopted all eight habits by age 40 would live 23 years longer on average compared to those who adopted none." There are benefits to be had even if patients can't adopt all eight healthy habits.

Commenting on the eight lifestyle habits of the study, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, says he found the results impressive. "If you do wrap them all together, and you start reasonably early, it does seem to predict that you get a substantial increase in your life expectancy. We're not talking about days, weeks, months, or only a couple of years."

Schaffner also notes that these findings are based on an observational study that has not gone through the peer review process. "I think one of the most important limitations and cautions that people need to understand while interpreting the results of our study is that our estimations are based on observational data and causality cannot be assumed from our findings."

It is also pointed out that there are other factors to consider. Not everyone has access to the "upstream factors," as Williams discussed in her WP Live interview, such as clean air, clean water, shelter, proper education and healthy diet.


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