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Four Specific Health Behaviors Contribute to a Longer Life

Four health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness and death related to chronic diseases. Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases.1 Heart disease, cancer, and stroke account for more than 50% of all deaths each year.1

A new CDC report finds that people can live longer if they practice one or more healthy lifestyle behaviors— not smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and limiting alcohol consumption.2 Not smoking provides the most protection from dying early from all causes.

People who engaged in all four healthy behaviors were 66 percent less likely to die early from cancer, 65 percent less likely to die early from cardiovascular disease, and 57 percent less likely to die early from other causes compared to people who did not engage in any of the healthy behaviors.2

What You Can Do to Live a Healthier and Longer Life

Avoid Excessive Alcohol Use:

  • Drink alcohol in moderation (men should have no more than two drinks per day; and women no more than one drink per day).

Avoid Tobacco:

  • Photo: A woman exercisingIf you do not smoke, don't start.
  • If you currently smoke, and want to quit, call 1-800-Quit-Now, a free telephone support service that can help you to stop smoking or using tobacco.

Improve Nutrition:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood.
  • Eat fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.

Engage in Physical Activity:

  • Participate in 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week, or
  • Participate in 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week, or
  • Participate in an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and
  • Engage in muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms)

Reference

  1. Kung HC, Hoyert DL, Xu JQ, Murphy SL. Deaths: final data for 2005. National Vital Statistics Reports 2008;56(10).
  2. Ford ES, Zhao G, Tsai J, Li C. Low-risk lifestyle behaviors and all-cause mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study. American Journal of Public Health., published online ahead of print August 18, 2011.

More Information

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

 

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  • Page last reviewed: August 15, 2011
  • Page last updated: August 31, 2011
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