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Health Spotlight: How to eat to live longer

(WISH) — Want to know the secret to a longer life? It could all be in what you eat and how you prepare it.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy in the United States has dropped for a second year in a row, from 77 years to 76.

While COVID-19 was a main factor for the drop in life expectancy, chronic health issues including heart disease also played a part.

Now, new research shows people can reduce their risk for early death by as much as 20%.

Heart disease, cancer, dementia are all leading causes of death in the United States.

Dr. Richard Seidman, chief medical officer of L.A. Care Health Plan, said, “There’s a growing body of evidence that shows that healthy nutrition and medically tailored meals can significantly improve overall health outcomes.”

In a study published in January in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found people can reduce their risk for early death by nearly 20% by following diets focused on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Researchers followed 119,000 men and women over age 36. Those who improved their diet over time were associated with lowering their risk of dying from neurodegenerative diseases including dementia by 7%, heart disease by up to 13%, and cancer by as much as 18%.

So, what foods should you focus on for a longer life?

Seidman said, “There’s so much evidence that the more we eat that’s plant-based, that’s not processed, so fresh from garden to kitchen, is the direction to lean in.”

So, eat more whole foods like fruits, veggies and grains, and cook more for a longer and healthier life.

By cooking more at home, people can control the ingredients in their food and reduce their risk for heart disease and early death. A total of 70% of the sodium that Americans eat comes from overly processed foods or meals that are eaten out. A diet high in sodium is linked to high blood pressure and poor heart health.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.