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Four healthy habits may give 14 more years: study

Jan. 8, 2008
Courtesy PLoS Biology
and World Science staff

Peo­ple who adopt four healthy habits seem to live on av­er­age 14 years long­er than those who adopt none of them, a new study in­di­cates. The habits are not smok­ing, ex­er­cis­ing, drink­ing al­co­hol in modera­t­ion and eat­ing five serv­ings of fruit and veg­eta­bles dai­ly.

Kay-Tee Khaw and col­leagues from the Un­ivers­ity of Cam­bridge and the Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil in the U.K. stud­ied records of 20,000 old­er Brit­ish adults who had filled out health ques­tion­naires be­tween 1993 and 1997.

Af­ter fac­tor­ing in age, the re­search­ers found that over an av­er­age of 11 years, peo­ple who un­der­took none of the four health habits were four times more likely to have died than those who adopted all four. Peo­ple in this less healthy group had on av­er­age the same risk of dy­ing as peo­ple 14 years old­er in the se­c­ond group, the re­search­ers said. 

The par­ti­ci­pants were aged 45 to 79 when they filled out the ques­tion­naires. Deaths among the par­ti­ci­pants were recorded un­til 2006. Mod­er­ate drink­ing was de­fined as be­tween one-half and sev­en pints of beer, or glass­es of wine, week­ly.

The study formed part of the Eu­ro­pe­an Pro­spec­tive In­ves­ti­ga­t­ion in­to Can­cer and Nu­tri­tion, con­ducted across ten Eu­ro­pe­an coun­tries, billed as the larg­est study of di­et and health ev­er un­der­taken.

The find­ings need to be con­firmed in oth­er popula­t­ions, but the re­sults “strongly sug­gest that these four achiev­a­ble lifestyle changes could have a marked im­prove­ment on the health of middle-a­ged and old­er peo­ple,” the re­search­ers said in an an­nounce­ment of the find­ings. The re­search ap­peared on­line Jan. 8 in the re­search jour­nal PLoS Bi­ol­o­gy.


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People who adopt four healthy habits seem to live on average 14 years longer than those who adopt none of them, a new study indicates. The habits are not smoking, exercising, drinking alcohol in moderation and eating five servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council in the U.K. studied records of 20,000 older British adults who had filled out a health questionnaires between 1993 and 1997. After factoring in age, the researchers found that over an average of 11 years, people who undertook none of the four health habits were four times more likely to have died than those who adopted all four. People in this less healthy group had on average the same risk of dying as people 14 years older who practiced all the healthy behaviors, the researchers said. The participants were aged 45 to 79 when they filled out the questionnaires. Deaths among the participants were recorded until 2006. Moderate drinking was defined as between one-half and seven pints of beer, or glasses of wine, weekly. The study formed part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, conducted across ten European countries, billed as the largest study of diet and health ever undertaken. The findings need to be confirmed in other populations, but the results “strongly suggest that these four achievable lifestyle changes could have a marked improvement on the health of middle-aged and older people,” the researchers said in an announcement of the findings this week. The research appeared online Jan. 8 in the research journal PLoS Biology.