Healthy living ‘can add 14 years’
Flats on an estate
Social class was
Taking exercise, drinking moderately, eating sufficient fruit and vegetables
and not smoking can add as much as 14 years to your life, a study has found.
Research involving 20,000 people over a decade found those who failed on all
criteria were four times more likely to have died than those who succeeded.
The findings held true regardless of how overweight or poor they were.
The Public Library of Science Medicine study suggests many could increase
their lifespan through simple changes.
The research was carried out by the University of Cambridge and the Medical
Research Council in the English county of Norfolk between 1993 and 2006.
Participants were aged between 45 and 79. They were socially mixed although
overwhelmingly white, and as far as they were aware at the time, did not
have cancer or any heart problems.
Taking off the years
A point was awarded for each of the following: not currently smoking,
consuming between one and 14 units of alcohol per week (the equivalent of
between half a glass and seven glasses of wine), eating five servings of
fruit and vegetables each day and not being inactive.
It means a large proportion of the population really could feel health
benefits through moderate changes
Professor Kay-Tee Khaw
University of Cambridge
This last category was defined as either having a sedentary occupation and
taking half an hour of exercise a day, or simply having a non-sedentary job
like a nurse or plumber.
Not only did the team find that those with four points were significantly
less likely to have died over the period than those with none, they also
found that a 60-year-old person with a score of zero had the same risk of
dying as a 74-year-old with the full four points.
"We’ve know that individually, measures such as not smoking and exercising
can have an impact upon longevity, but this is the first time we have looked
at them altogether," said Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, who led the research.
"And we also found that social class and BMI – body mass index – really did
not have a role to play.
"It means a large proportion of the population really could feel health
benefits through moderate changes."
It was in the reduction of deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease where
the findings were most pronounced, with those scoring zero five times more
likely to succumb than those scoring four.
But there was also a relationship between score and cancer deaths.
While the main analysis excluded people with known disease, the researchers
found that those with serious conditions fared better the higher they scored
than those who scored lower.
Health campaigners welcomed the study.
"This is good news and shows that by living a healthy life, people can
reduce their risk of dying from heart and circulatory disease," said Judy
O’Sullivan of the British Heart Foundation.
"By not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, taking regular physical
activity and eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, people can improve
their chances of living longer."
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Everyone has responsibility for
their own health, which was highlighted last year when we kickstarted the
Small Change, Big Difference initiative to show people that there are simple
changes they can make in their lives that will have a direct impact on their
# – Prahladananda Swami – 8/1/08