January 8, 2008
Don't smoke, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, and drink alcohol in moderation. Those four lifestyle habits could add an average of 14 years to your life expectancy according to a new study.
The University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom tracked about 20,000 people in the study.
"We've known for a long time that these behaviors are good things to do, but we've never seen these additive benefits before," said Susan Jebb, head of Nutrition and Health at Britain's Medical Research Council, which helped pay for the study.
The benefits were seen regardless of whether or not people were fat and what social class they came from. The findings were published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal.
The study included healthy adults aged 45 to 79. Participants
filled in a health questionnaire between 1993 and 1997 and nurses
conducted a medical exam at a clinic. Participants scored a point
each for not smoking, regular physical activity, eating five
servings of fruits and vegetables a day and moderate alcohol
Until 2006, the researchers tracked deaths from all causes,
including cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.
People who scored four points were four times less likely to die
than those who scored zero, the research showed.
Public health experts said they hoped the study would inspire
governments to help people adopt these changes.
But because the study only observed people rather than testing
specific changes, experts said that it would be impossible to
conclude that people who suddenly adopted these healthy behaviors
would automatically gain 14 years.