Seven Steps for a Long Life

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Following seven lifestyle steps can add ten years or more of healthy living to the average life span and save billions of dollars in reduced health-care costs, observed cardiologist and past president of the American Heart Association Clyde W. Yancy, MD, at the opening ceremonies of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver on October 23.

In his address, Yancy laid out the following steps for achieving optimal health:

1. Get active. Physical inactivity can reduce expected life span by nearly four years. Additionally, those who are not active have twice the risk of heart disease and stroke — two of the leading causes of death in people with diabetes. To learn how to make exercise enjoyable, click here.

2. Know and control cholesterol levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every three adult Americans has high cholesterol, and two-thirds of that group do not have the condition under control. High cholesterol raises the rate of heart and blood vessel disease. For information on lowering your cholesterol levels naturally, check out this article by diabetes dietitian Amy Campbell.

3. Follow a healthy diet. Many Americans fall short when in this area, but it is one of the most important things you can do for your health, according to Yancy. For strategies on improving your diet, check out the pieces in our “Nutrition & Meal Planning” section.

4. Know and control blood pressure. High blood pressure, called the “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms, affects a third of American adults, half of whom do not have the condition under control. High blood pressure is an important risk factor in stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, and is two times more common in people with diabetes than in the general population. For tips on reducing your blood pressure, read “The Pressure is On.”

5. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. More than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, conditions that can increase a person’s risk for a range of ailments such as heart disease and stroke and that can reduce a person’s life span by nearly four years (in the case of obesity). To learn strategies for maintaining a healthy weight, click here.

6. Manage diabetes. Nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes; another 79 million have prediabetes and are at high risk of developing Type 2. Diabetes that is not controlled is associated with risk for a range of conditions, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and stroke. To read about the fundamentals of controlling diabetes, check out our “Diabetes Basics” section.

7. Be tobacco free. According to the CDC, tobacco is the “nation’s leading killer,” causing roughly 443,000 premature deaths each year due to smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke. Smoking causes a range of health conditions, such as lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease. For help quitting smoking, see

Those who follow these seven health strategies can expect to live 40 to 50 years beyond age 50 with quality of life maintained for the longest time possible. According to Yancy, “achieving these seven simple lifestyle factors gives people a 90% chance of living to the age of 90 or 100, free of not only heart disease and stroke but from a number of other chronic illnesses including cancer.”

To learn more, read the piece “Simple lifestyle changes can add a decade or more healthy years to the average lifespan of Canadians, says international expert” on the Web site of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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