Health In Focus
  • Leading a healthy lifestyle could prolong the lifespan of men and women
  • It could also reduce the chances of developing cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
  • Life expectancy could increase by up to 8 years in men and 10 years in women

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during middle-age is associated with a longer life expectancy that is free from major chronic diseases, such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, reports a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Healthy Lifestyle Increases Life Expectancy

The study sheds new light on why life expectancy can be drastically reduced (ranging from 7.5 to 20 years) in middle-aged persons who suffer from the three major chronic diseases, compared to their peers without these conditions. The study was conducted by an international, multidisciplinary team of physician-scientists, led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Objectives of the Study

The primary objective of the study was to examine whether leading a healthy lifestyle during mid-life could prolong life expectancy and keep individuals free of chronic diseases such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Study Design

This was a prospective cohort study. A total of 111,562 participants were recruited from two major studies:
  • Nurses' Health Study: Conducted between 1980-2014 (n=73,196)
  • Health Professionals Follow-Up Study: Conducted between 1986-2014 (n=38,366)
Questionnaires were used to collect information from the participants on the following aspects:

Lifestyle Factors

The following 5 low-risk lifestyle factors were taken into account:
  • Smoking Status: Information on smoking status was self-reported by the participants. The smoking status was categorized as:
    • Never smokers
    • Current smokers
    • Past smokers
    • Current smokers were further categorized as:
      • Smoking 1-14 cigarettes/day
      • Smoking 15-24 cigarettes/day
      • Smoking ≥ 25 cigarettes/day
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): For calculating BMI (weight in kg/height in m2), the weight and height were self-reported by the participants. The BMI was considered to be healthy if it ranged between 18.5-24.9
  • Physical Activity: Physical activity was assessed using a validated questionnaire. The intensity of physical activity, including brisk walking, ranged between moderate and vigorous for a duration of ≥ 30 minutes/day
  • Alcohol Intake: Alcoholic drinks that were taken into consideration included red and white wine, beer, and spirits. Alcohol consumption of the participants was considered to be moderate if:
    • Men consumed 5-30 g/day
    • Women consumed 5-15 g/day
  • Quality of Diet: The diet quality was assessed by the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) Score. A diet was considered to be healthy if it had an AHEI Score in the top 40 percent of each cohort

Key Findings of the Study

  • Total life expectancy at 50 years of age increased with the adoption of an increasing number of low-risk lifestyle factors. The life expectancy of the participants ranged between:
    • Men: 31.3 to 39.4 years
    • Women: 31.7 to 41.1 years
  • Life expectancy of the participants who were free from cancer, Type 2 diabetes , and cardiovascular disease at 50 years of age, were as follows:
    • Men who adopted no low-risk lifestyle factors: 23.5 years
    • Men who adopted 4 or 5 low-risk lifestyle factors: 31.1 years
    • Women who adopted no low-risk lifestyle factors: 23.7 years
    • Women who adopted 4 or 5 low-risk lifestyle factors: 33.4 years
  • The following categories of participants accounted for the lowest proportion (≤ 75%) of total life expectancy at 50 years of age:
    • Men who were heavy smokers: ≥ 15 cigarettes/day
    • Obese men and women: BMI ≥ 30

Expert Comments & Policy Recommendations

The researchers indicated: "Our findings suggest that promotion of a healthy lifestyle would help to reduce the healthcare burdens through lowering the risk of developing multiple chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and extending disease-free life expectancy."

With reference to framing policies, they added: "Public policies for improving food and the physical environment conducive to adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as relevant policies and regulations (for example, smoking ban in public places or trans-fat restrictions), are critical to improving life expectancy, especially life expectancy free of major chronic diseases."

Concluding Remarks

The researchers concluded: "Using data from two large cohort studies, we observed that adherence to a low-risk lifestyle was associated with a longer life expectancy at age 50 free of major chronic diseases of approximately 7.6 years in men and 10 years in women compared with participants with no low-risk lifestyle factors."

Reference :
  1. Healthy Lifestyle and Life Expectancy Free of Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, and Type 2 Diabetes: Prospective Cohort Study - (

Source: Medindia

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