Five healthy habits could add 14 years to your life

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Keeping just five healthy lifestyle habits can prolong your life by up to 14 years, scientists claim.

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a good body weight, sticking to one or two glasses of wine a day and not smoking is the key to longevity, the researchers believe.

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The team from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in America, looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 women and 27 years of data from 44,354 men.

They found that aged 50, women with the healthiest lifestyles outlived those with the worst by 14 years and for men it was 12 years.

They also found that they were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer than the most unhealthy.

The study, published online in the journal Circulation, is the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of adopting low-risk lifestyle factors on life expectancy.

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A total of 42,167 deaths were recorded, of which 13,953 were due to cancer and another 10,689 were due to cardiovascular disease.

Risk reduction

And for each individual positive lifestyle habit there was a reduced risk of premature death.

All the data came from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study in the US.

The researchers looked at how five low-risk lifestyle factors - not smoking, low body mass index (18.5-24.9 kg/m2), at least 30 minutes or more per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, moderate alcohol intake (for example, up to about 150ml of wine per day for women, or twice that for men) and a healthy diet - might impact mortality.

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Study participants who didn't adopt any of the low-risk lifestyle factors had a life expectancy at the age of 50 of 29 years for women and 25.5 years for men.

However for those who adopted all five low-risk factors, life expectancy at age 50 was 43.1 years for women and 37.6 years for men or an extra 14 years of life for women and 12 years for men.

Compared with those who didn't follow any of the healthy lifestyle habits, those who followed all five were 74% less likely to die during the study period.

Good habits

Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study said: "This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. population.

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"Quantifying the association between healthy lifestyle factors and longer life expectancy is important not only for individual behavioural changes but also for health communicators and policy makers.

"It is critical to put prevention first.

"Prevention, through diet and lifestyle modifications, has enormous benefits in terms of reducing occurrence of chronic diseases, improving life expectancy as shown in this study, and reducing healthcare costs.

"However, adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low.

"Therefore, public policies should put more emphasis on creating healthy food, built, and social environments to support and promote healthy diet and lifestyles."