A DIY guide to living longer

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
A DIY guide to living longer

Can we take steps to live longer? Are there ways to reduce the risk of chronic disease and add years to our lives? New research suggests we can and it is as simple as sticking to four key lifestyle factors.

  • 1. Stay a healthy weight;
  • 2. Walk for 30 minutes every day;
  • 3. Eat fruits, vegetables and wholegrains; and
  • 4. Don't smoke.

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For more than 20 years, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has been investigating diet, lifestyle and environmental factors and their links with the incidence of chronic disease.

Its new research, the EPIC-Potsdam study, reveals these four key lifestyle factors have the potential to dramatically reduce the onset of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and therefore help us live longer.

Australian statistics show that many of us will develop heart disease, diabetes or cancer — especially as we get older.

So while adopting these four lifestyle factors seems logical, the fact is at this stage only one out of 10 Australians is actually managing to get even one of these important factors right.

The good news is any positive changes you make to your lifestyle will help. The research shows adopting just one of the healthy living traits will help in lowering your risk of developing long-term chronic disease, and the more lifestyle factors you follow, the better.

Let's take a closer look at each of these four key healthy lifestyle factors:

Healthy weight
Of the four recommendations, maintaining a healthy weight has the greatest impact on longevity and the risk of disease. For most people, weight gain occurs in small amounts, the fact is it can sneak up over a number of years. And usually, the most effective weight loss is small and sustainable (around half a kilo per week).

Activity
Walking is a great low-impact activity that is easy for most people to do. Thirty minutes each day is all it takes. Remember, you can divide it into two 15-minute blocks, so you can do a session in your lunch break and another before or after work. When you break it down like that, it could be as easy as choosing active options such as walking to the next bus stop, or walking to the shops instead of taking the car.

Smoking
If you don't smoke, the best way to help your health is to never start. If you are a smoker, you need to be mindful that it carries some serious health consequences. But it is never too late to stop and the good news is there are many effective strategies and support groups that can help. The best place to start is to call Quitline (137 878).

Food choices
Our body needs food for survival, so naturally what we eat is going to have an effect on how well our body functions. The researchers in the EPIC-Potsdam study highlight the importance of a variety of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains (wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereal, brown rice).

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It is rare to find research with such conclusive results. One of the most impactful points the researchers highlight in their conclusion is that for people who are meeting none of the four key lifestyle factors, achieving even one promises to increase the time free of chronic conditions.

It goes to show that small changes can make a big difference to our health and how long we live.

Your say: What are your best tips for making good food choices easier?

Video: Healthy food tricks for happy kids

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