Think of all the consumer products that promise to make you look younger, as well as those that promise to restore and maintain health.

But a noted cardiologist says the key to feeling young and healthy and adding years to your life las less to do with drugs and other products and more to do with how you live.

Live a decade longer

In fact, his research suggests that implementing healthy lifestyle strategies could help people add a decade or more of healthy years to the average lifespan and save the economy billions of dollars as a result of reduced cardiovascular disease.

In a speech at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver over the weekend, Dr. Clyde Yancy said people who follow seven simple steps to a healthy life can expect to live an additional 40 to 50 years after the age of 50.

Seven simple lifestyle factors

"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," said Yancey, a professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at the Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. He is also the past-president of the American Heart Association.

Yancey said people who follow these steps can compress life-threatening disease into the final stages of life and maintain quality of life for the longest possible time. He predicts that, if we act now, we can reverse the tide by 2020.

2200 deaths per day

According to 2007 data, some 2200 people in the U.S. die each day from cardiovascular disease. According to Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation, every year in Canada about 250,000 potential years of life are lost due to heart disease and stroke, which are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada.

According to Yancy, the seven secrets to a longer, healthy life are as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT: About one-third of American adults are classified as obese. 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 life span by almost four years.
  • MANAGE 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.
  • BE TOBACCO FREE: Thousands 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.

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