08/09/2012 11:54 am ET Updated Oct 09, 2012

The 7 Habits and Numbers of a Longer, Healthier Life

The Olympics generate a lot of buzz about gold medals and perfect 10s. But in the Olympics of life, you only need seven for the gold.

Below are seven points I've been teaching my patients for years, and now the American Heart Association (AHA) has studied these seven metrics to determine how long and how well you will live. That's right -- get these seven habits and metrics right and you can significantly lower your risk of death. Here they are:

1. Never smoked or quit smoking for more than 12 months
2. BMI < 25 kg/m2
3. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits and fiber-rich whole grains; eat < 1,500 mg/day of sodium; limit sugar-sweetened beverages
4. Get moderate or vigorous activity > 150 minutes/week
5. Total serum cholesterol < 200 mg/dL
6. Systolic blood pressure (top number) <120 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) < 80 mmHg
7. Fasting blood glucose < 100 mg/dL or Hemoglobin A1C < 5.7 percent

These seven habits and metrics were based on following 7,622 adults who only had to be 20 years old or more. Then they looked at how many of these seven things people met and reported on their likelihood of death.

People who met five or more of these seven metrics had a 78 percent reduction in dying from any cause and an 88 percent reduction in dying from heart attack and stroke.

In particular, not smoking or stop smoking for 12 months (that's right -- quit for a year or more and it increases your life span), Hemoglobin A1C < 5.7 percent, peoples diets and how much they exercised mattered most.

How many of these seven habits and metrics do you meet? The more of these seven habits and metrics you meet, the longer and healthier you will live. And the sooner you get these metrics and habits in place, the better.

In another study of 2,327 college-educated men and women at least 60 years of age, the investigators studied three lifestyle risk factors for death and disability over 20 years:

• BMI > 25 kg/m2
• Current smoking
• Physical inactivity -- never exercising enough to work up a sweat

So this is your triathlon event: Control your weight, don't smoke or stop smoking and keep physically active, and you can delay having a disability for 8.3 years and reduce your likelihood of dying.

Now that's Olympic Gold.

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