“Who Wants to Live Forever” is a song that appeared on the 1986 album “A Kind of Magic” by the rock band Queen. The song often sparks conversation about the potential benefits of immortality.
Immortality may not be possible, but many people aspire to improve their chances to live a long and prosperous life. A study published in the journal Lancet analyzed data from the 2016 Global Burden of Diseases project to generate life expectancy predictions from 2017 to 2040 for most countries. The United States saw the largest decline in ranking among high-income countries, as life expectancies in the United States are projected to fall from 43rd in 2016 to 64th by 2040, with an average life expectancy of 79.8. Life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped in each of the past two years, according to annual reports by the National Center for Health Statistics.
But there may be hope for Americans yet. Doctors and scientists continually study the lifestyles of people who outlive their life expectancies. While genetics can play a role, so can following healthy habits, which have been identified to promote longevity.
• Don’t smoke. Many smokers have been told that smoking trims 10 years off their life expectancies, and that statement is corroborated by a study published in 2013 in The New England Journal of Medicine that tracked participants over a span of several years. The good news is people who quit before the age of 35 can usually regain those lost years.
• Avoid drug use. Accidental drug overdoses contributed to 63,600 deaths in the United States in 2016, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Usage of prescription opioids and heroin has skyrocketed in recent years. Drug use also may exacerbate mental illnesses, potentially making drug users more vulnerable to suicide.
• Maintain healthy body mass. Moderate to vigorous exercise regimens and diets loaded with healthy foods can keep weight in check. Maintaining a healthy weight has a host of positive side effects, including reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is a leading killer in North America. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly four in 10 adults and 18.5 percent of children in the United States are obese. According to the 2015 Canadian Health Measures Survey, 30 percent of adults in Canada are obese and may require medical support to manage their disease.
• Limit alcohol consumption. Some evidence suggests that light drinking can be good for cardiovascular health. However, a paper published in the Lancet suggests every glass of wine or pint of beer over the daily recommended limit will cut half an hour from the expected lifespan of a 40-year-old. The paper says the risks are comparable to smoking.
Simple, healthy lifestyle changes can help people increase their