Add 14 years to your life.

New study points way for older Americans to live much longer

May 2, 2018 - Even most senior citizens are surprised to learn that people in the U.S. do not live as long as those living in most other high-income countries. Recent research suggests, however, this could be dramatically changed if Americans would adopt just five modest lifestyle changes. The researchers say we are looking at as much as 14 years added to the lives of older Americans.

The study, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulationexamined how lifestyle factors like regular physical activity, not smoking, moderate drinking and a healthy weight and diet might raise life expectancy among Americans.

Although the U.S. is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, it ranks 53rd in the world for life expectancy at birth, according to 2015 data from the World Health Organization.


Researchers at Harvard University studied data from 123,219 patients compiled during a 34-year period in the Nurses’ Health Study and 28 years of the Professionals Follow-up Study.

They then focused on patients with five “low risk lifestyle factors”:

1.   not smoking;
2.   exercising for 30 minutes a day at a moderate to vigorous level (including brisk walking);
3.    having a normal body mass index;
4.    eating a healthy diet; and
5.    consuming a moderate level of alcohol, defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

The researchers found that 50-year-old women who engaged in all five low-risk factors lived an average age of 93.1 years – 14 years longer than women who adopted none of the lifestyle factors.

Men at age 50 who adopted all five factors lived to an average age of 87.6, or 12.2 years longer than men who had none of the five low-risk factors.

“If more Americans adopted healthy lifestyles, it could have quite a big impact on life expectancy,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Yanping Li, a research scientist at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Americans put a high priority on health care, but our findings support the idea that we should be putting more effort on prevention than on treatment,” she said.

The average lifespan has been steadily increasing in the U.S., from 62.9 years in 1940 to 76.8 in 2000 to 78.8 in 2014, a rise attributed partly to a steady decrease in smoking.

In 1965, 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked. By 2014, the percentage had dropped to 16.8 percent.


Dan Fishbaine