We have always known that keeping physically fit, eating right, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and, generally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for our health.
Now, science is showing that people who lead a healthy lifestyle could actually be enjoying many more disease-free years than those who don’t.
On average, reports show, these good habits could add 14 disease-free years to your life.
A new study estimates a 7.5 to 20 years loss in life years due to chronic conditions that often arise as a result of smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, poor dietary habits and sedentariness, after the age of 50. The research sought to examine how a healthy lifestyle is related to life expectancy that is free of major chronic diseases.
“Studies have shown that smoking, inactivity, poor diet quality, and heavy alcohol consumption contribute up to 60 per cent of premature deaths and 7.4 to 17.9 years’ loss in life expectancy,” says the study published in the British Medical journal, this month.
Little research has looked at how a combination of multiple lifestyle factors may relate to life expectancy free of major diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Scientists in the research say even though the average life expectancy in the world has increased substantially in the past few decades, older people today are increasingly living with disabilities and chronic diseases.
In a long-standing study, which began in 1976, the group of experts in association with Harvard University Public Health in Boston and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences followed 110,000 nurses in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), divided into two different groups of men and women: one that adopted ‘no low-risk lifestyle factors’ and another that adopted ‘four or five low-risk lifestyle factors’.
“The life expectancy free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer at age 50 was 23.7 years for women who adopted no low-risk lifestyle factors, in contrast to 34.4 years for women who adopted four or five low-risk factors,” say the researchers in their report.
The researchers say modifiable lifestyle factors including smoking, physical activity-including moderate physical activity involving not more than a 30-minute brisk walk daily, alcohol intake and diet quality affect both total life expectancy and incidence of chronic diseases.
The study defines moderate alcohol intake as 5g to 15g of pure alcohol per day for women. One unit of alcohol has 8g of pure alcohol, so 15g is about one 175ml glass of wine, and 5g to 30g per day of alcohol for men, 30g is about 1.5 pints of beer.
“Our findings suggest that promotion of a healthy lifestyle would help to reduce the healthcare burdens,” they say.