The Guardian
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How you could extend your lifespan


Just believing you are healthy cuts your chances of early death by 71%, researchers find

Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and drinking in moderation could add up to 12 years to your life, new research reveals.

While women who follow a healthy lifestyle can expect to have an extra dozen years, men can extend their life by 11, a study found.

On its own, drinking alcohol in moderation adds seven years to your life. These additional years are also free of disability, the research adds. Never smoking and not being obese gives you an extra four-to-five disability-free years, the study found.

The findings were published in the journal Health Affairs.

Study author Mikko Myrskylä from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, said: “A moderately healthy lifestyle is enough to get the benefits. Avoiding becoming obese, not smoking, and consuming alcohol moderately is not an unrealistic goal.”

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany and the University of Michigan analyzed more than 14,000 people aged between 50 and 89.

Study participants were interviewed every two years about their lifestyle between 1998 and 2012. People were deemed to be free of disability if they had no restrictions in their daily activities, such as the ability to dress and bathe independently.

Never smokers were those who had smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their life, while people were deemed to be obese if their BMI was more than 30.

Men who had less than 14 alcoholic drinks a week and women who had fewer than seven such beverages were considered moderate drinkers. The researchers analyzed the ages at which individuals with these healthy behaviors first became disabled, how many years they lived with disability and their life expectancy.

Also, according to Stanford University, United States, people who view themselves as less healthy than others are at risk of suffering a premature death – no matter how active they actually are.

The study, published in Health Psychology, is the latest of many to show how our thoughts, feelings and beliefs have a direct impact on our health. Experts say this shows we should equally prioritize feeling positive and working out.

“Our findings fall in line with a growing body of research suggesting that our mindsets – in this case, beliefs about how much exercise we are getting relative to others – can play a crucial role in our health,” co-author Dr. Alia Crum said.

Crum, an assistant professor of psychology, and Octavia Zahrt, a doctoral candidate at the Graduate School of Business, analyzed surveys from more than 60,000 United States (U.S.) adults from three national data sets.

The surveys documented participants’ levels of physical activity, health and personal background, among other measures. In one of the samples, participants wore an accelerometer to measure their activity over a week.

They were all asked the same question: “Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about as active as other persons your age?”

The researchers then viewed death records from 2011, which was 21 years after the first survey was conducted.

They found that people who saw themselves as less active than others were up to 71 percent more likely to die in the follow-up period than people who thought they were more active than their peers.

This was even true after they controlled for physical activity, age, body mass index, chronic illnesses and other factors.

Crum’s prior research shows that the health benefits people get out of everyday activities depend in part on their mindsets – that is, whether or not they believe that they are getting good exercise.

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