Salt Lake City — Two things always make the list when research teams or health departments search for the keys to a longer life: healthy diet and exercise. A recent study, published Monday in the medical journal Circulation, is no exception.
The research team spent 34 years studying 42,167 deaths and singling out the five lowest-risk health factors. They learned women who kept a healthy diet at the age of 50, had at least 30 minutes of moderate to extreme exercise a day, drank alcohol in moderation, kept a body mass index between 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 could live up 14 years longer than women who didn’t. It was 12.2 years for men.
“Adopting a healthy lifestyle could substantially reduce premature mortality and prolong life expectancy in US adults,” the study concluded.
This study joins others, like this one that found fruits and vegetables increase the chance of longer life and a Standford study that argues diet and exercise have to go hand in hand to see a positive change in the BMI, but so far nothing has stopped the steady increase of obesity rates in the U.S.
In 2017 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40 percent of American adults and nearly 20 percent of adolescents are obese. They are the highest rates ever recorded for the U.S.
“It’s very difficult to change behavior and so one of the the things we have been doing is trying to create change from the outside in, instead of the other way around,”said Rebecca Fronberg, Assistant Program Manager for the EPIC program within the Utah Department of Health.”If we would like people to get more physical activity, wouldn’t it be great if our streets and neighborhoods were designed in a way that encouraged that?”
She’s tackling the problem by talking to local politicians about installing more sidewalks and bike lanes to make healthy exercise easier. Fronberg said the Health Department is also working with local grocers to encourage a “veggie butcher” or someone who will help chop up fruits and vegetables for people on the go.
“It’s a societal thing. We have to change that,” she said. “We have to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
The CDC warns obesity is linked to serious health risks including heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and other chronic problems.
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