#191 4 Bad Habits that Shorten Your Life 18 Years

4 Bad Habits that Shorten Your Life 18 Years

Four bad habits can rob you of 18 years of life.  In this article, I share the four bad habits that shorten your life and keep you from making it to age 88 in excellent health.

How long will you live?

“How long will I live?” Joan asked at her initial cardiology consultation with me. Having just reviewed this new study,  I wanted to find out if she had any of four bad habits that shorten life.

“Do you smoke or drink?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Are you exercising every day?” I next asked.

“Without fail,” she said.

“How many servings of fruits and vegetables are you eating every day?” I asked.

“At least 10 daily,” she answered.

“Well, based this new study, you should live an extra 18 years” I said.

“But will these extra 18 years be quality years?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” I said.  “Without any of these four bad habits, you should make it to age 90.2 in good health.”

Canadian Bad Habit Study

Several years ago, Dr. Douglas G. Manual, from the Ottawa Hospital in Canada, came up with the brilliant idea to calculate how many years of life your bad habits cost you.  To estimate the price of bad habits, Dr. Manual and his team carefully studied 112,894 Canadians.

From this exhaustive review, he came up with four bad habits that shorten your life. Indeed, he found that Canadians with none of these bad habits lived 18 years longer than those with all four bad habits.

4 Bad Habits that Shorten Your Life 18 Years

When most people think of bad habits that shorten your life, smoking is the first thing that comes to mind.  While this was true for men in this study, for women they found that not exercising was the worst bad habit.  Below are the four bad habits that shorten your life by 18 years.

1. Smoking

In this study, even if you occasionally smoked, it counted against you.

2. More than 3 Alcoholic Drinks Weekly

Interestingly, even if you had just one drink daily, it counted against you.  The goal behavior for a long and healthy life was zero to three drinks weekly.

3. Not Exercising Every Day

No surprise here.  Not exercising regularly turned out to be one of the biggest risk factors for an early death in this Canadian study.

4. Eating Less than 10 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Daily

Based on their research, a healthy diet was defined by the average number of servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  Basically, you got one point for every serving you averaged with a maximum score of 10 points.  Their rationale was that if you are focussed on vegetables and fruits, then the rest of your diet is probably pretty good as well.

The interesting twist is that if you ate potatoes or drank fruit juice then they subtracted two points from your total score.  Also, if you didn’t include carrots, you also lost two points.

Their reasoning was that potatoes (think chips or fries) and fruit juice really just represent sugar, so you lost points.  Also, if you weren’t eating carrots then you probably weren’t eating a variety of vegetables as well.

How long will you live?

If you can eliminate these four bad habits then, according to this study, you can expect to live to age 88.2.  For women, it is even better.  Women, without any of these bad habits, can expect to live to age 90.2.

If you want to drill down a bit deeper to find out how long you are expected to live, the authors of this study  have created an online life expectancy calculator based on this study.

I clicked on this link to see how long they think I will live.  Based on my own health habits, they estimate that my body is 10 years younger than I actually am and that I will live to age 91.6.  They also give me a 20.1% chance of making it to age 100.

Take Home Message

The big picture to this study is that making it to age 88.2 in good health really comes down to doing four things right.  All you need to do is don’t smoke, keep alcohol intake below three drinks weekly, exercise daily, and eat 10 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Do you have any of these four bad habits that shorten your life?  How long are you predicted to live?

Please leave your thoughts and questions below.  Also, if you enjoyed this article, please be sure to sign up for my free weekly newsletter and podcast!

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. For purposes of this study (and your opinion), are beans and legumes (lentils, etc.) considered “vegetables” that would count in the 10 daily servings?

    • Hi Richard,

      Thank you so much for reading!

      While some studies count legumes as vegetables, this study did not. Personally, I don’t count legumes as vegetables either…While they both come from plants, nutritionally, they behave very differently.



  2. Hello Dr John,

    I have afib, is that heart disease? If not then I’m doing ok.

    I recently purchased a fitbit and can see the effect of alcohol consumption on my resting heart rate. with no alcohol I am mostly <60 bpm. After a couple of wines I can go to 65 or more. So less is best.


    • Hi Colin,

      Thanks for reading!

      While Afib is technically considered “heart disease,” it isn’t the heart disease most people consider when they use this term. Most of the time when people refer to “heart disease,” they are referring to blockages in the arteries of the heart.

      Hope this helps!