More people are living longer thanks to the rise in life expectancy, unfortunately this also means that more people are living with diseases such as #diabetes, #cancer and #heart disease. Modifiable lifestyle factors including #smoking, #exercise, #alcohol consumption, #obesity and #diet quality can all affect both total life expectancy and the incidence of chronic disease. Many studies have shown that smoking, inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption and a poor-quality diet contribute towards a high percentage of premature deaths as well as a loss of years in life expectancy. A new study published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal, includes data from more than 110,000 people and focuses on the effect of healthy lifestyle factors on a life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The study assessed five healthy habits and estimated how much longer people who adopted these habits could live, as well as how many of these extra years would be disease-free. The markers of a healthy lifestyle used by the research teams were, not smoking, having a healthy body mass index (#BMI), taking part in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day, only drinking alcohol in moderation, and having a healthy diet score. The participants were all assessed for more than twenty years, with their habits recorded every two years. By adopting four or five of the healthy habits indicated above, researchers found that women could reap the largest benefit, with an extra 10.6 years disease free in comparison to men having an extra 7.6 healthy years. A 50-year-old woman who stuck to none of the five healthy habits could expect to live a further 23.7 years without serious illness, those adopting four or five could expect 34.4 years. Those with the shortest period of healthy life remaining were obese men or women who also smoked heavily.
The study adds further weight to much research conducted to show that a healthy lifestyle can reduce our risk of disease. Whilst the study cannot prove a direct link between healthy lifestyles and disease-free lives, it does show an incredibly strong link. Public policies for encouraging healthy lifestyles are critical for improving both life expectancy and a life free of major chronic diseases, which in turn will decrease health care burdens on governments. Whilst its always best to adopt a healthy lifestyle as soon as possible in life, all the participants in this study were over 30 and followed for two decades, which shows that it really is never too late to change. Adopting healthy habits at a relatively late stage in life can still have a substantial impact on health outcomes.