Four simple lifestyle changes can extend a person's life by 14 years. Not smoking, limiting use of alcohol, exercise regularly and eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables are related to an increase in length of life. This, according to a study of 20,244 women published by Kay-Tee Khaw, MD of the University of Cambridge Institute of Public Health and colleagues in PLoS Medicine.
The researchers used a health behavior questionnaire to rank study participants from zero to four in smoking and alcohol use, getting exercise and eating five servings a day of fruit and vegetables. Those who participated were 45 to 79 years old and were rated one point for not smoking, drinking moderately (one to 14 units per week (one-half pint of beer, one glass of wine, or a shot of alcohol), staying physically active and having a blood level indicative of eating five servings of fruit and vegetables every day.
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Researchers then tracked participants' mortality until 2006 and found that they lived an average of 14 years longer than those who didn't adopt any of those lifestyle practices.
The trends were strongest for death from cardiovascular causes, they reported. The mortality risk for those with a score of four compared to a score of zero in health behaviors was equivalent to being 14 years younger in chronological age.
Further studies are needed to confirm these findings. However, the researchers said that encouraging these four healthful lifestyle behaviors could have a significant effect on mortality, especially in an aging population.