A healthy lifestyle is paid out in years of life
Based on a study of 123,000 participants, the British health authority NHS recently published a report with five rules, the observance of which is said to promote health so much that it increases life expectancy by 14 years on average for women and around 12 years for men. These simple rules are based on current understanding of the benefits of healthy living habits. The five rules are:
- Do not smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight (BMI from 18.5 to 24.9).
- At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
- Maintain a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as little red meat, saturated fat and sugar.
- Don't drink too much alcohol (the study recommends not more than 100 grams of pure alcohol a week).
Habits cannot be changed overnight
The NHS points out that most people will not be able to change their entire lifestyle overnight. Instead, the individual points should be addressed bit by bit. For example, smoking could be stopped first. The improved endurance could make sport easier. Those who see their first successes in sports may also want to eat healthier, and so on. Of course, everyone has to find the exact procedure themselves.
Every success counts
According to the NHS, each of these rules is conducive to reducing the risk of premature death. If you don't succeed in getting everyone through, you have done something good for your health, even if it is only one of these points.
About the study
The study was carried out by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted in Boston and other centers in China, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States. The results were published in the "Circulation" journal. It was a prospective cohort study of adults in the USA that examined how the living habits of the test subjects affected life expectancy. In addition, the diseases from which the participants died were taken into account.
Huge amounts of data
At the start of the study, the researchers analyzed information from around 123,000 adults aged 30 to 75 who had been medically observed for around 30 years between 1980 and 2014. The researchers examined whether those with healthy habits lived longer than those with unhealthy ones. During this time, participants were asked about their eating and drinking habits every four years and their physical activity was assessed every two years. In addition, the subjects had to regularly state whether they smoke and how much they weigh.
Evaluation of the diet
The diet was rated with the so-called "Alternate Healthy Eating Index" (AHEI). This system gives participants a score based on how well their diet complies with the recommended amounts of food. In this system there is a high score for the following eating habits:
- A lot of vegetables,
- many fruits,
- eat nuts regularly,
- many whole grains,
- Intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids,
- little red and processed meat,
- little sugar-sweetened drinks,
- little trans fats,
- little salt.
What did the results of the study show
The researchers distribute one point for each rule to the test subjects. Only a few people managed to implement all 5 healthy habits. Only 1.3 percent of women and 1.7 percent of men received 5 points. 42,167 participants died during the study, including 13,953 from cancer and 10,689 from heart disease.
How do the rules affect the likelihood of illness
Using the data, the researchers were able to calculate how much the likelihood of death would decrease if one followed these five lifestyle habits. As a result, the overall mortality rate dropped by around 61 percent. The chance of dying from cancer decreased by 52 percent and the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases decreased by about 72 percent.
Increased life expectancy
The data showed that people who followed all 5 of these habits have a 10-year longer life expectancy than those who do not. According to this, women can live an average of 14 years and men 12.2 years longer.
The study is designed to motivate people to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The researchers tried to consider as many points as possible. However, they point out that other factors may also play a role that were not considered in this study. This could include, for example, socio-economic status (salary, education, place of residence, etc.) or medical preconditions. (vb)