Diet and Lifespan: How to Live Your Longest and Best Life

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Thanks to advancements in medicine and technology, we can all expect the potential for longer lives!

But is a longer lifespan guaranteed in the age of modern medicine and health consciousness?

Although there are many factors contributing to people living longer all around the world, it’s easy to swindle your way out of the good fortune that comes with living in modern times.

The average life expectancy in Australia is about 83 years. But, there are many elements that help determine whether an individual will meet or exceed that average.

One of the most important elements in determining longevity is lifestyle.

Lifestyle

Many of the factors that impact longevity are out of our control. Generally, we don’t have much control over things like gender, genetics, childhood, socioeconomic status, education, and ethnicity.

Fortunately, we do have control over our lifestyle choices – and that’s a big deal when it comes to lifespan and mortality.

Essentially, lifestyle is the way we live. It includes several components, including tobacco use, alcohol use, risky sexual behaviours, workplace safety, driving habits, and exercise.

But, arguably, the most prevalent factor of lifestyle when considering mortality is diet.

Diet and Lifestyle

In the past, some of the other lifestyle factors were more pertinent in determining an individual’s longevity. But today, the primary lifestyle choice that impacts lifespan is diet.

Right now, you might be thinking, “How is diet more important than some of those other factors?”   

Well, diet is a key element in overweightness and obesity – and overweightness and obesity are big health problems in Australia.

Overweightness and Obesity

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare determined that almost 2 out of 3 Australians adults were overweight in 2015. That number shows about a 10% increase from 1995, demonstrating that overweightness is on the rise.

To add insult to injury, 28% of Australians were considered obese or morbidly obese in 2015:  about a 9% increase since 1995.

And while overweightness is bad, obesity is tragic.

Obesity is a condition in which a person’s weight is at least 20% above what is considered normal or healthy.

Morbid obesity is when an individual’s weight is at least 50% over what is considered normal or healthy. Morbid obesity is also defined by its tendency to drastically interfere with normal bodily functions.

We know that overweightness and obesity can affect a person’s self-esteem, but the most dangerous effects span far beyond emotions and aesthetics.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare also reported that excess weight is a major factor in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions, and some cancers. In fact, they determined that at least 5% of diseases within the Australian population could be attributed to excessive weight.

The Australian Medical Association even goes further to predict that obesity is overtaking smoking as the major cause of preventable death in the country with more than 50,000 Australians dying prematurely from obesity related diseases each year.   

At the rate we are going, it is expected that nearly 80% of Australian adults will be overweight or obese by 2025; running an increased risk of developing a preventable weight related disease and decreasing their chances of reaching average longevity.

The Power of the Diet

While the statistics surrounding overweightness and obesity can seem daunting, it’s important to remember that we are in control of this aspect of our lives!

So how do you beat obesity and use your diet to live a long and healthy life? The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide a good foundation for being proactive with your diet and/or getting your weight back on track.

These guidelines have information to help you make better and more informed decisions about the foods you eat and how you structure your diet. The purpose of the Australian Dietary Guidelines is to promote health and wellbeing; and reduce the risk of preventable dietary and weight related diseases and illnesses.

Basically, they suggest that you consume more:

  •      Leafy vegetables
  •      Legumes/beans
  •      Fruits
  •      Whole grains
  •      Reduced fat dairy foods
  •      Seafood
  •      Poultry
  •      Eggs

And less:

  •      Starchy vegetables
  •      Refined cereals
  •      High and medium fat dairy foods
  •      Red meats
  •      Saturated fat
  •      Sugar
  •      Salt
  •      Alcohol

More specifically, the guidelines recommend that Australians eat a wide variety of whole grain foods, vegetables and legumes, lean meats, fruits, and reduced fat dairy products every day. Furthermore, Australians should eat mostly whole grains and vegetables and make water their drink of choice.

Following these guidelines will help you create a healthy, balanced diet. And a diet that is full of nutrition and void of fatty, sugary filler foods will promote a longer lifespan and healthier life.

According to some estimates, improving dieting habits can add up to ten years to your life! So get out there, eat right, and live long!

Need some inspiration? Browse through our list of healthy snack alternatives that actually taste good.

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