The Pareto Principle (named after the 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto) states that 80% of the effects generally come from 20% of the causes.
Applied to health, this principle would look like ‘80% of the results come from 20% of the effort’.
For longevity a recent research article came across my desk that strikes me as defining the 80:20 principle for longevity.
Using combined data from 123,219 people followed for 30+ years in two of the best American longitudinal studies, the researchers defined 5 low-risk lifestyle factors:
The results were clear:
For a 50 year old man, adopting these 5 simple lifestyle measures would add 12.2 additional years of life, increasing life expectancy to 87.6 years as compared 75.5 years for someone adopting none.
For a 50 year old woman, these 5 measures add 14 years, bringing life expectancy to 93.1 years vs 79 years.
While this study, focused on lifespan rather than healthspan, it is clear that overall vitality and health would be superior with these same measures.
The rationale behind the measures is clear and compelling:
It was also clear that these lifestyle factors are synergistic - the larger the number of low-risk lifestyle factors the longer the life expectancy benefit.
For most measures the definitions were very clear; for :
In summary - the Pareto for longevity is to never smoke, be moderate with alcohol consumption, exercise regularly, eat well with common sense (eat real food, not too much, mostly plants) and maintain a normal weight.
As I sometimes need to remind the optimizers in our practice - simple lifestyle measures deliver most of the benefit - be sure that you are doing these things first.
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Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population - Li et al. Circulation. 2018;138:345–355. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047
Details showing the cumulative effect of 1 or more measures on longevity:
Dr. Brendan Byrne