Lifestyle changes can boost lifespan 10 years: doctor

Lifestyle changes can add years to a person's lifespan and save the economy billions of dollars, according to a cardiologist with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Exercise and six other easy steps could increase the average person’s lifespan, according to a cardiologist. (Carlos Ulate/Reuters)

Lifestyle changes can add years to a person’s lifespan and save the economy billions of dollars, according to a cardiologist with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Dr. Clyde Yancy, a professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said a sharpened focus on health prevention — including seven steps to a healthy lifespan —  could add a decade or more to the average person’s life. 

"Achieving these seven simple lifestyle factors gives people a 90 per cent 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," Yancy said.

Yancy will deliver the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Lecture at the opening ceremonies of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver Sunday.

Yancy’s 7 steps:

1. Get active: Inactivity can shave almost four years off a person's expected lifespan. People who are physically inactive are twice as likely to be at risk for heart disease or stroke.

2. Know and control cholesterol levels: Almost 40 per cent of Canadian adults have high blood cholesterol, which can lead to the build up of fatty deposits in your arteries — increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.

3. Follow a healthy diet: Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health — yet about half of Canadians don't meet the healthy eating recommendations.

4. Know and control blood pressure: High blood pressure — often called a silent killer because it has no warning signs or symptoms — affects one in five Canadians. By knowing and controlling your blood pressure, you can cut your risk of stroke by up to 40 per cent and the risk of heart attack by up to 25 per cent.

5. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight: Almost 60 per cent of Canadian adults are either overweight or obese — major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Being obese can reduce your lifespan by almost four years.

6. Manage diabetes: By 2016 an estimated 2.4 million Canadians will live with diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), coronary artery disease, and stroke, particularly if your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled.

7. Be tobacco free: More than 37,000 Canadians die prematurely each year due to tobacco use, and thousands of non-smokers die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke. As soon as you become smoke-free, your risk of heart disease and stroke begins to decrease. After 15 years, your risk will be nearly that of a non-smoker.