A Healthy Lifestyle Can Lead to a Longer Life

It's no secret that a healthy lifestyle can lead to a longer, high-quality life. So why do we keep looking for "healthy" shortcuts?

Women in Canada live an average of five years longer than men

Instead of seeking a miracle remedy, common sense dictates that how you live is the key to staying healthy

As someone nagged by endless emails asking, “Should I get this new miracle health product that’s all the rage?” I’m convinced that you’re much more likely to figure out your own best medical path if you simply apply a healthy dose of skepticism to any promise you run across.

This applies especially to too-good-to-be-true stuff like acai berries, coconut oil, and nearly anything Dr. Oz has mentioned. Before going whole-hog (or even just a few ribs) for those miracles, you’d be wisest to remember what Gertrude Stein said about Oakland: “There is no there, there.”

That being said, one area of medicine where I think skepticism is no longer appropriate is in the importance of lifestyle choices in determining how well and how long you live. Those choices do matter, very much.

Women Lead Healthier Lives, Longer

Take, for example, the fact that women outlive men in every country in the world (in Canada by about five years). Curiously, many Canadian experts have referred to this difference as “only” five years, leading this man to believe that those experts must surely be female.

Although there are lots of theories for this huge life-expectancy gender gap — hormones, genes, social differences, risk taking, etc. — the factor that makes most sense to me is that women outlive men in large part because women live healthier lifestyles. So, you’d expect that when women begin to live more like men, they begin to die in similar rates to men, too.

Which is exactly what a recent huge American study found. Whereas women smokers in the 1980s were only twice as likely to die of lung cancer as women non-smokers, because of the way in which women are now smoking (very similar to the way men have always smoked), a female smoker is now 25 times more likely to die of lung cancer than is a female non-smoker.

Live Better

Now many of you will not like to hear this because you’d prefer to find some miracle product to negate this message, but how you live has a great impact on how long and how well you will live, which chronic diseases you’ll develop and how early (or late) in life you’ll get them, and especially about how happily and energetically you will get to live whatever time you’ve been granted.

Which really should be enough, I think, to get at least some of you off the couch and out for a long walk.

Dr. Art Hister is a medical writer and health analyst for Global TV.


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