Healthy Habits Can Mean 14 Extra Years
January 09 2008 12:00 AM ET
To get an extra
14 years of life, don't smoke, eat lots of fruits and
vegetables, exercise regularly, and drink alcohol in
finding of a study that tracked about 20,000 people in the
Kay-Tee Khaw of
the University of Cambridge and colleagues calculated
that people who adopted these four healthy habits lived an
average of 14 years longer than those who didn't.
''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
''Just doing one
of these behaviors helps, but every step you make to
improve your health seems to have an added benefit,'' said
Jebb, who was not involved in the study.
The benefits were
also 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.
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 intake.
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
Khaw said that
the study should convince people that improving their
health does not always require extreme changes to their
''We didn't ask
these people to do anything exceptional,'' Khaw said.
''We measured normal behaviors that were entirely feasible
within people's normal, everyday lives.''
experts said they hoped the study would inspire governments
to help people adopt these changes.
is an important piece of work which emphasizes how
modifying just a few risk factors can add years to your
life,'' said Tim Armstrong, a physical activity expert
at the World Health Organization.
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.
''We can't say
that any one person could gain 14 years by doing these
things,'' said Armstrong. ''The 14 years is an average
across the population of what's theoretically
But experts worry
that the new findings may still not be enough to
persuade people to change their unhealthy ways.
know that things like a good diet matter and that smoking
is not good for you,'' Jebb said. ''We need to work on
providing people with much more practical support to
help them change.'' (AP)