Even if you don’t adopt good health habits until well into middle age, a new study shows that it’s still worth your while to do so.

The study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, tracked nearly 16,000 adults aged 45 to 64 for six years. The participants who practiced healthy lifestyle habits reduced their risk of heart disease and premature death (from all causes) during that time. Those habits included eating more than five servings of vegetables and fruits daily, exercising for at least 2-1/2 hours a week, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.

It’s interesting to note that only about 1,300 participants had been practicing the four healthy lifestyle habits before entering the study. And only about 1,000 adopted them during the course of the study (though all participants were given the opportunity to do so). But within four years, the “late-starters” had caught up to the people who had been practicing those behaviors all along.

Though the majority of the study participants didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to change their habits, you can be different. Do it gradually and it will be painless. Maybe add an extra serving of vegetables to your menu this week and another serving next week. Then add a 15-minute walk each day the week after that.

Whatever you do, don’t think “It’s too late for me now.” This study shows it’s never too late to benefit from making healthy lifestyle changes.

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