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Live a healthier, longer life

with these five simple steps

4 Minute Read

Just five healthy habits can improve your chances of living a healthier, longer life, according to the American Heart Association.

Those who adopted all five had a life expectancy at age 50 of 14 years longer for women and 12 years longer for men than those who adopted none of the healthy steps, according to a 2018 study in the AHA journal Circulation. (Average life expectancy in the United States is about 78.6 years.)

Healthy Habit #1 - Regular physical activity

The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity.

You can also do a combination of the two. It's best to spread the activity throughout the week and add in muscle-strengthening activity.

And it doesn't have to be rigorous – long-distance running or intense gym workouts – according to Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, whose research team examined these keys to longevity. Consider brisk walking, tennis, bicycling, swimming laps or even dancing.

Healthy Habit #2 - Appropriate body weight

Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and premature death. The Circulation   study suggested maintaining a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9. A health care professional can offer medical guidance, and you can estimate your BMI yourself using a reputable online calculator.

Watch your calorie intake and monitor your weight by stepping on a scale.

Many people gain a one to two pounds a year as they age, leading to an overall weight gain that can reach 30 or 40 pounds and contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, Hu said.

"Obesity is a huge epidemic in the United States. That should be a top public health priority," said Hu, who emphasizes the importance of prevention in American health care.

Healthy Habit #3 - Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet includes nutrient-rich foods that provide the protein, minerals and vitamins you need.

Select plenty of fruits and vegetables and try to work them into every meal and snack. Other foods to emphasize are whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils.

Try to limit sodium, red meat, saturated fat and added sugars, including sugary beverages. Remember to drink plenty of water for hydration.

Healthy Habit #4 - Don't smoke

The U.S. overall has made strides in reducing smoking, but there's still more work to do, Hu said.

Cigarette smoking leads to a higher risk of dying of coronary heart disease. Smoking increases the effects of other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and physical inactivity.

Never smoking is the best option and can be a factor in improving life expectancy. For those who do smoke, quitting is key.

Healthy Habit #5 - Drink in moderation

Consuming too much alcohol can result in higher risk for various health problems.

It can increase the level of some fats in the blood, known as triglycerides, and can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and certain cancers. It can also increase your calorie consumption, risking obesity and diabetes.

The AHA considers moderate alcohol consumption to be an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce 100-proof spirits.)

Article provided by the American Heart Association


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