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This One Easy Thing Reduces Your Risk of Premature Death, Says Science

Doctors give their tips for preventing a premature death. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Death isn't anything most of us enjoy thinking about, but at some point we will all reach the end of life, but certain lifestyle choices can help prevent death longer. The average lifespan in the United States is 75-years-old and anyone who dies before then is considered to have passed before their time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Each year, nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death – yet 20 percent to 40 percent of the deaths from each cause could be prevented, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." So how can you avoid an early death? Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with doctors who reveal their tips for staying healthy longer. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Considered Premature Death?

Grey-haired woman doing dishes dishwash.

Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a  Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies shares, "Death is often considered premature when it occurs before someone has had a chance to live a full life. This can be due to illness, accidents, or other factors. While death is always sad, premature death can be especially tragic because it represents lost potential. In many cases, premature death is preventable, which makes it all the more devastating. Death rates are dropping in developed countries thanks to advances in medical care, but there is still much work to be done in order to reduce the number of premature deaths worldwide. It is important to remember that every life lost to premature death is a tragedy that should be avoided if at all possible.

The social determinants of health point to key areas in our lives that impact our life, quality, and untimely death.Our life expectancy is not just determined by our biology. It is also influenced by the social determinants of health. The social determinants of health are the conditions in which we live, work, and play. They include things like our income, education, housing, and access to healthcare. Research has shown that the social determinants of health play a significant role in our life expectancy. For example, people who live in poverty are more likely to die prematurely than people who have a higher income. This is because poverty can lead to poor nutrition, stress, and unhealthy behaviors. It can also make it difficult to access healthcare. By understanding the social determinants of health, we can take steps to reduce our chances of premature death. 

Death is something that eventually happens to everyone. However, death can also be preventable with some effort."


Who is at Risk of Premature Death?

stressed out woman

Dr. Seema Bonney, the founder and medical director of the Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Philadelphia says, "People who are overweight or obese, people with poor lifestyle habits/high levels of daily stress, anyone with genetic factors for severe illness."


Avoid Risky Behaviors

Friends in the Pub

Dr. Mitchell reminds us to avoid risky behaviors, which "includes things like wearing a seatbelt, not texting while driving, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.

Death is something that none of us can avoid. It is the one certainty in life. However, death can come sooner than it should if we engage in risky behaviors. By understanding what those behaviors are and how to avoid them, we can all help to reduce our risk of premature death. There are many factors that can contribute to premature death, but some of the most common include smoking, excess alcohol consumption, drug use, and obesity. Additionally, risky behaviors such as unsafe sex and not wearing a seatbelt can also lead to an early death.

The best way to avoid these behaviors is to educate yourself on the risks involved. If you know the dangers, you are more likely to make healthy choices."


How Nutrition Helps Prevent Premature Death

Woman visiting nutritionist in weight loss clinic.

Dr. Booney explains, "We know that there is a direct link between diet and life expectancy. High consumption of processed foods and alcohol is linked to an increase in severe illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. On the flip side, people who consume mostly fruit, vegetables and healthy proteins and hydrate with clean water, live longer." 

Dr. Mitchell adds, "A balanced diet is important for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. There are many different causes of premature death, but one of the most preventable is poor diet. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been shown to decrease the risk of premature death due to chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help to reduce the likelihood of developing these chronic diseases in the first place. Adopting healthy behaviors now can drastically increase our chances of living long, healthy lives. So what are you waiting for? Start making those dietary changes today!"


Know Your Family History

30-something woman and man and a young child eating salad at home
Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Knowing your family history can give you some insight into what might be lurking in your genes, and potentially help you avoid a death that could have been prevented with lifestyle changes or early detection. The leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, and stroke, all of which have genetic components. If you know that heart disease runs in your family, you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. If cancer is common in your family, you may want to consider more frequent screenings. And if a stroke is a concern, you may want to work with your doctor to manage any underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure."

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Stay Physically Active

older man walking outdoors
Shutterstock / Momentum Fotograh

Dr. Booney shares, "Daily exercise extends life expectancy in many ways. It improves heart health, helps the body detox, supports metabolism and proper digestion and cognitive function. Both cardiovascular movement and strength training are beneficial in keeping the body strong, balanced and healthy for the long run."

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Manage Your Stress Levels

Woman with tablet indoors on sofa at home feeling stressed, mental health concept.

"When the body is in a continuous fight or flight state, our nervous system can't turn off the stress response," says Dr. Booney. "This impacts the heart, digestive and endocrine systems, messes with our sleep cycle and prevents the body from returning to homeostasis. This leads to the development of heart disease, diabetes, IBS, autoimmune disorders and neurodegenerative conditions…. to name a few. Taking time to unwind, implementing a daily breathing or meditation practice and creating a healthy work/life balance is essential to extending life expectancy." 

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Limit Alcohol Use

drinking alcohol

Dr. Mitchell explains, "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Each year, excessive alcohol use contributes to approximately 88,000 deaths, or about one death every hour. Alcohol use can lead to death from a variety of causes, including car accidents, drowning, falls, and cancer. However, the vast majority of alcohol-related deaths are due to liver disease, heart disease, and stroke. Fortunately, there are many things that people can do to reduce their risk of premature death from alcohol use. For example, limiting alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women can help to reduce the risk of death from all causes. However, at the end of the day, it's important to talk to your own doctor to review health risks."


Don't Skip Routine Checkups

woman having serious chat with her doctor

Dr. Booney emphasizes, "Making sure that you schedule routine doctor and dental appointments is a powerful preventative in the development of life ending illness. Getting proper lab work and any other diagnostics that your doctor suggests is so important. Screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, ultrasounds and scans detect internal abnormalities that may not be causing any physical symptoms yet. This gives you and your doctor time to treat the illness before it is in advanced stages. In addition to seeing your primary care, dental checkups are paramount. Bacteria in the teeth can cause a life-threatening infection in your heart valves. Studies also show that the state of our oral health can be a sign of other health issues within the body. "


Your Zip Code Matters

doctor appointment

Dr. Mitchell says, "Living in certain areas can lead to a greater chance of death, especially premature death. Studies have found that people who live in deprived areas are more likely to die younger than those living in less deprived areas. There are many reasons for this. For example, people in deprived areas may be more likely to experience poor housing and overcrowding, which can lead to health problems. They may also have limited access to healthcare and healthy food options. In addition, they may be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol. While death is a natural part of life, premature death is preventable. By making simple changes to our lifestyle and environment, we can help reduce our risk of early death. While death is ultimately inevitable, following these basic guidelines can help!"

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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