Healthy lifestyle can help stave off diseases for extra decade, study finds

Olivia Petter
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Living a healthy lifestyle can help you stave off diseases for an extra decade, new research has found.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, has found that those who adopt habits such as exercising for at least 30 minutes a day or drinking in moderation are more likely to be free of illnesses like cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences looked at data from more than 110,000 people for the study.

For the sake of the study, a healthy lifestyle was defined by those with at least four of the following five factors: never smoking, a healthy body mass index (BMI), moderate alcohol intake, a healthy diet, and at least half an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day.

As for the alcohol intake, moderate was viewed as 5g to 15g of pure alcohol per day for women (15g is roughly one 175ml glass of wine) and for men, this range went from 5g to 30g per day, with 30g pure alcohol considered the equivalent to 1.5 pints of beer.

Based on this data, the study's authors then analysed for how long people could live a disease-free life from the age of 50.

On average, the results showed that women with healthy lifestyles could enjoy 34.4 years free from diseases, compared to 23.7 years for women who had none of the five healthy lifestyle behaviours.

Meanwhile, men who adopted at least four of the five aforementioned healthy living factors were found to expect 31.1 years free from diseases, with this figure dropping down to 23.5 years for men who did not follow any of the healthy lifestyle factors.

The study also identified those who were at the highest risk of developing cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, citing men who smoked more than 15 cigarettes and women with a BMI over 30.

"We observed that adherence to a low-risk lifestyle was associated with a longer life expectancy at age 50 free of major chronic diseases of approximately 7.6 years in men and 10 years in women compared with participants with no low-risk lifestyle factors," the study reads.

"Public policies for improving food and the physical environment conducive to adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as relevant policies and regulations (for example, smoking ban in public places or trans- fat restrictions) are critical to improving life expectancy, especially life expectancy free of major chronic diseases."

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