There are very few things that are fully in our control. But, according to new research, there are two lifestyle habits that are proven to help you capitalize on the latter half of your life.
In a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers from the BU School of Medicine, posit that habitual exercise and a diet comprised of fruits and vegetables can enable middle-aged populations to maintain their cardiovascular and metabolic health into old age.
More specifically, the authors found that participants who followed the dietary and exercise guidelines established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demonstrated dramatic risk decreases for a series of conditions including, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure (HBP), insulin resistance, and stroke.
The current HHS physical activity guideline recommends adults try to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week—things like walking, cycling, or swimming.
Fruit and vegetable intake varies slightly by health system but most, including the HHS and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), recommend adults aim for two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables every day.
Participants who followed these physical activity recommendations alone evidenced a 51% risk decrease for metabolic disorders. Those who adhered to HHS dietary guidelines alone enjoyed a 33% lower risk, and participants who followed both guidelines had 65% lower odds of developing metabolic syndrome.
“We evaluated 1993 Framingham Offspring Study participants (mean age, 58 years; 53.2% women) attending examination cycle 7. We related BP responses to submaximal exercise with prevalent subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) using multivariable linear regression models,” the authors wrote in the new paper.
“We also related blood pressure (BP) responses to submaximal exercise to the incidence of hypertension, CVD, and all‐cause mortality using Cox proportional hazards regression models.”
Higher submaximal exercise BP and routine fruit and vegetable consumption in midlife were consistent markers of subclinical and clinical CVD and mortality in later life.
This may seem obvious on its face, but the research literature examining the associations of midlife blood pressure (BP) responses to submaximal exercise (performances geared to test a participant’s biological response to physical activity) is actually limited.
Ultimately, 90% of Americans fail to meet dietary guidelines established by national health officials.
“USDA and HHS have expanded this edition of the dietary guidelines to provide new guidance for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, helping all Americans to improve their health, no matter their age or life stage,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement.
The diet linked to a longer lifespan
The updated guideline provides the best sources to meet the requirements encouraged by the authors of the new report:
• Vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables
• Fruits, especially whole fruit
• Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
• Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or lactose-free versions and fortified soy beverages and yogurt as alternatives
• Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products
• Oils, including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts
Independently conducted research has drawn robust associations between populations that adhere to the Mediterranean diet (which features most of the foods listed above) and longevity.
“The Mediterranean diet consists primarily of fish, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, potatoes, fruits, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), moderate amounts of wine, and small amounts of red meat. It limits processed foods and refined sugar,” The Natural Medicine Journal reports.
“Achieving this dietary pattern is a simple and attainable goal. Certain food preparation techniques can improve the bioavailability of important nutrients in the Mediterranean diet. Observational and clinical studies show the Mediterranean diet is effective for primary and possibly secondary prevention of cancer.”