Four Health Behaviors Can Add 14 Extra Years Of Life
who adopt four healthy behaviors – not smoking; taking exercise;
moderate alcohol intake; and eating five servings of fruit and
vegetables a day – live on average an additional fourteen years
of life compared with people who adopt none of these behaviors,
according to a new study.
than focusing on how an individual factor is related to health, the
study calculates the combined impact of these four simply-defined forms
of behavior. The results suggest that several small changes in
lifestyle could have a marked impact on the health of populations.
is overwhelming evidence showing that lifestyles such as smoking, diet
and physical activity influence health and longevity but there is
little information about their combined impact. Furthermore the huge
amount of information provided by these studies and the varying
definitions of a health behavior that these studies use can often make
them confusing for public health professionals and for the general
public. For example: small amounts of alcohol appear to be related to
lower risk of cardiovascular disease health but what is the overall
impact on longevity "
order to examine the combined impact of changes in lifestyle, Kay-Tee
Khaw and colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the Medical
Research Council used a health behavior score that is easy to
understand in order to assess the participants in the study (who were
from Norfolk, United Kingdom). Between 1993 and 1997, 20,000 men and
women between the ages of 45 and 79, none of whom had known cancer or
heart or circulatory disease, completed a questionnaire that resulted
in a score between 0 and 4.
point was awarded for each of the following: not currently smoking; not
being physically inactive (physical inactivity was defined as having a
sedentary job and not doing any recreational exercise); a moderate
alcohol intake of 1-14 units a week (a unit is half a pint of beer or a
glass of wine); and a blood vitamin C level consistent with eating five
servings of fruit or vegetables a day. Deaths among the participants
were recorded unti l 2006.
factoring in age, the results showed that over an average period of
eleven years people with a score of 0 -- i.e. those who did not
undertake any of these healthy forms of behavior -- were four times
more likely to have died than those who had scored 4 in the
questionnaire. Furthermore, the researchers calculate that a person who
has a health score of 0 has the same riskof dying as someone 14 years
older who had scored 4 in the questionnaire (i.e. someone engaging in
all four healthy forms of behavior). This was independent of social
class and body mass index. The study forms part of the European
Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), conducted
across ten European countries, the largest study of diet and health
related editorial discusses, individuals in isolation often cannot make
the lifestyle changes they want and a set of complex processes affect
how research is translated into effective public health policy.
results of this study need to be confirmed in other populations and an
analysis of how the combined health behaviors affect quality of life is
also needed. Nevertheless the results of the study strongly suggest
that these four achievable lifestyle changes could have a marked
improvement on the health of middle-aged and older people, which is
particularly important given the ageing population in the UK and other
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