About two years ago, Harvard researchers published a massive study showing how you can increase your lifespan by 10 years or more by adopting five healthy habits. But they failed to mention the single, most-important predictor of longevity.
(Though, to be fair, we can’t really fault the Harvard researchers for not including this important predictor in their study. Because it wasn’t something they even could measure back when the study began 30 years ago. Yet they still covered a lot of ground in their analysis.)
Thankfully, recent research expands on this predictor, and we now know what you can do to improve it. I’ll tell you all about that exciting, new research in just a moment. But first, let’s take a look at the five healthy habits…
Five simple habits to increase lifespan by a decade
For the original Harvard study, researchers reviewed three decades of data involving 78,000 women and more than 44,000 men. Overall, they found a strong link between five healthy behaviors and a lower risk of developing major health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Specifically, women in the study who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, and men who maintained them gained 12 years, on average, compared with those who didn’t.
In addition, women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles at the age of 50 were 82 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 percent less likely to die from cancer, compared to those with the least-healthy lifestyles over a 30–year period.
The five healthy habits pinpointed by the researchers were:
1.) Maintaining a “high-quality,” healthy diet. The researchers assessed the participants’ diet in interviews and gave them a score using a standard food index. Those who had a “healthy” diet scored in the top 40 percent of their cohort. Which means they were measured against others in their cohort…and not scored specifically on how many fruits and vegetables they consumed per day, for example.
As a reminder, studies consistently show that the Mediterranean-type diet—filled with wholesome, satisfying foods like full-fat dairy, grass-fed and -finished meat, wild-caught fish and seafood, and fresh produce—is the healthiest diet on the planet.
2.) Getting some regular, moderate exercise. In the Harvard study, researchers found that men and women who engaged in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day experienced big gains in longevity. But remember, other well-designed studies show you really only need 140 to 150 minutes total per week. And walking, gardening, caring for animals, and doing household chores all count toward your weekly total.
3.) Drinking alcohol in moderation. For this factor, the Harvard researchers found that women who drank up to about one, 5-ounce glass of wine per day and men who drank up to about two glasses per day gained the most protection against disease. This finding makes a lot of sense, as we know that moderate consumption of any type of alcohol lowers blood pressure and blood sugar and supports healthy metabolism. Plus, as I always point out, moderate alcohol generally reduces stress—a factor that mainstream researchers typically leave out of the longevity equation.
4.) Maintaining a healthy weight. As you might expect, maintaining a healthy weight also helps improve longevity. But remember, other strong studies show that keeping a few extra pounds is healthier than being underweight, especially as you get older. So, you’re far better focusing on maintaining a healthy diet…and your weight will naturally adjust to healthier levels from there.
5.) Not smoking or limiting smoking. The Harvard study linked being a non-smoker or a light smoker to increases in longevity. And that’s key—because research that I helped conduct in 1989 found that people who smoke less than a half-a-pack a day of cigarettes (or one to two cigars) generally suffer no harmful health consequences.
Now, let’s move onto the newer study that pinpointed the single, most–important predictor of longevity…
Vitamin deficiency increases mortality risk from all causes
For the new study, Belgian researchers followed almost 2,000 men between the ages 40 to 79 years for almost 12 years. And at the study’s outset, they took two important measurements…
First, they measured the participants’ so-called “total” vitamin D levels, which, as the name suggests, includes the type of vitamin D circulating in your blood as well as the type stored in your tissues. (When your doctor orders a “vitamin D blood test,” they typically test for “total” vitamin D.)
The Belgian researchers also measured the participants’ so-called “free” vitamin D, which only includes the “free,” active, and unbound vitamin D circulating in your blood. The researchers said they believed that this “free” form better predicts disease, death rates, and longevity.
And here’s what they found…
When it came to “total” vitamin D, the men in the group with the lowest levels (less than 9 nanograms per liter [ng/L]) had an 83 percent higher risk of death compared to the highest levels (more than 46 ng/L).
And when it came to “free” vitamin D, the relationship was even stronger. The men with the lowest levels of “free” vitamin D (less than 4.4 ng/L) had a 91 percent higher risk of death compared to those with the highest levels.
In the end, this new research suggests that the amount of “free” vitamin D is slightly more important than total vitamin D. And that measurement of “free” D is important for writing scientific dissertations, but it doesn’t mean a great deal for you or your doctor. Which brings me back to a point I repeatedly make here in my Daily Dispatches and in my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletters…
Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is the No. 1 thing you can do to improve your longevity.
After all, optimal levels protect you against any number of chronic diseases…even coronavirus!
So, here are four tips to make sure you maintain optimal vitamin D levels year-round:
- Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels twice a year—once toward the end of winter and again toward the end of summer. Just ask for a simple blood test called the 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D test. (Optimal blood levels range between 50 and 75 ng/L.)
- Supplement daily year-round with 10,000 IU of vitamin D3. (You can now find it in liquid form together with the potent marine carotenoid astaxanthin. Simply use the top right search bar on my website to learn more about these two powerful compounds.)
- Spend 15 minutes a day out in the sun, without sunscreen. Even though at this time of year, in most parts of the U.S., the sun isn’t high enough to trigger vitamin D production in your skin—you will still reap many other benefits from this daily sun exposure in Nature, like reduced stress and lower blood pressure.
- Eat plenty of foods high in vitamin D. Including fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, eggs, full-fat dairy, and mushrooms. Fortunately, these foods all belong to the healthy, wholesome Mediterranean-type diet.
Of course, in addition to maintaining optimal vitamin D levels, there are many other simple, natural strategies for staying vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond. And you can learn all about them in my protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” To learn more about this online learning tool or to enroll today, simply click here now.
“Vitamin D levels in the blood can predict future health risks and early death.” Science Daily. 9/9/20. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200907183113.htm)
“Following five healthy lifestyle habits may increase life expectancy by decade or more.” Harvard School of Public Health, 4/30/18. (hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/five-healthy-lifestyle-habits/)