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Healthy lifestyle supports longer life-expectancy, study shows

by Diana Khanna

In a recent study published by the American Heart Association, healthy lifestyles were found to significantly lower premature mortality and extend lifespans among US adults.

The benefits of a healthy lifestyle pervade the public consciousness. Yet, in 2015, the US ranked 31st in the world for life expectancy. Despite having the highest health expenditures in the world, most are spent on cure rather than prevention. It is widely recognised that some of the most common health conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer are largely preventable by adopting low-risk lifestyles.

Researchers studied five lifestyle related risk factors using data on nurses and health professionals and their projected life expectancy. As part of a zero-risk lifestyle, one would avoid smoking, maintain an optimal body weight, engage in moderate to heavy physical activity, consume moderate alcohol intake, and maintain a high-quality diet.

Researchers found that US adults who adhered to a zero-risk lifestyle could extend their lives by 14 years for females and 12.2 years for males as compared to people who lacked all of the five elements of a zero-risk lifestyle. This is consistent with previous studies done in countries like Japan, Canada, Germany, and the UK showing that a healthy lifestyle was linked with a longer life expectancy.

American life expectancy has increased over the past century due to improvements in living standards, medical treatment, diet quality, and substantial reductions in smoking. It is possible, however, that the increasing obesity epidemic and decreased physical activity levels offset the gains in life expectancy. Several chronic conditions, such as cancer, CVDs, and diabetes, have been strongly linked with smoking. Alternatively, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, weight control, and moderate alcohol consumption are consistently associated with reduced mortality and morbidity resulting from chronic diseases. Further, researchers found combining health lifestyle factors is particularly effective: the more low-risk lifestyle factors you have, the longer your potential life expectancy will be.

Their study concludes that prevention should be a top priority for national health policy, and preventive care should be woven into the fabric of health care.

Photo by Gabin Vallet / Unsplash


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