Four Heart-Smart Habits That Can Add Years to Your Life

Practicing four simple, often enjoyable, everyday habits could dramatically increase your lifespan by helping stave off heart disease and other dangerous disorders, a new study published in American Journal of Epidemiology suggests.

In fact, people who practiced all four of the habits trimmed their risk for early death by an astonishing 80 percent. Researchers from Johns Hopkins also reported that these habits were particularly effective at preventing coronary heart disease, the leading killer of Americans.

The study included more than 6,200 men and women, ages 44 to 84, from ethnically diverse backgrounds. At the start of the study, participants were given lifestyle scores ranging from zero (least healthy) to 4 (most healthy) based on four factors: their diet, body mass index (BMI), level of moderate exercise, and smoking status, then their health was tracked for an average of 7.6 years.

Here’s a closer look at the four heart-smart habits the study identified:

  • Eat healing foods. The study offered further evidence of the many benefits of ditching the typical American diet in favor of one that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, along with moderate amounts of high-quality lean protein, such as fish and poultry. The researchers linked this way of eating to a longer, healthier life and lower risk for heart disease, while earlier research suggests that it can also combat a wide range of other deadly diseases.These medicinal–and delicious–foods are key components of The Omni Diet, a 70% plant + 30% protein program designed to fight inflammation: the root cause of heart disease and many other chronic illnesses. Eating the right food also offers a bounty of brain benefits, from improved mood and memory, to laser focus, clear thinking, a calm, relaxed mind–and dramatically decreased risk for stroke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Not only does the Omni Diet boost your health and help reverse diseases, but the wonderful “side effect” is losing weight. What’s the ideal weight goal? In the study, maintaining a BMI under 25 was linked to longer life. For a 5’ 4” inch woman, that means a weight below 145 pounds, or for a 5’ 9” man, a weight under 169.To help you slim down–without feeling ravenous–one of the cornerstones of my eating plan is a concept I call “mimicking calorie restriction”. Instead of insisting that you cut calories to the bone, and follow a starvation diet, my program encourages you to eat, eat, eat tasty, wholesome food that delivers the same fantastic results: a wide array of unprocessed, highly nutritious plant foods, lean protein, powerful herbs and spices, and a few carefully selected supplements.Even if you’ve had trouble sticking to every diet you’ve tried, my book makes it impossible to fail, by providing a hearty, filling eating plan and a bounty of helpful tips. The Omni Diet is a science-based program to get control of your life and optimize your health. It’s a lifelong journey and every step towards better health is a success. And a delightful bonus is that you can lose up to 12 pounds in just two weeks!
  • Get moving. In an almost magical way, exercise makes everything else in the Omni Diet work better by increasing insulin sensitivity, making your heart stronger, revving up your immune system, lowering body fat and blood pressure, increasing muscle mass and helping balance hormones.And as the study shows, moving more is one of the easiest ways to live longer. But even though physical activity is crucial for avoiding or reversing disease, improving health and maintaining youth, only 30 percent of Americans get the recommended amount.In my book, I include a simple-to-follow fitness plan that takes as little as 30 minutes a day and can be customized for any level of fitness.
  • Stay or become smoke-free. If you smoke, here’s powerful motivation to snuff out the tobacco habit. “Of all the lifestyle factors, we found that smoking avoidance played the largest role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality,” Roger Blumenthal, MD, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and senior author of the study, stated in a news release.Puffing even one cigarette a day hikes heart attack risk by 63 percent and smoking a pack quadruples it. But here’s the wonderful news: Snuffing out the cigarette habit can add up to a decade to your life, Oxford University researchers recently reported. The National Cancer Institute offers a step-by-step Quit Guide and free apps on its smokefree.gov website.

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