People who stick to five healthy habits in adulthood can add more than a decade to their lives, according to a major study into the impact behaviour has on lifespan.
This might seem startling for a country that spends more on health than any other - that is, until it becomes clear, suggest the new study authors, that most of the money goes on developing drugs and treating disease rather than preventing it.
Yanping Li, M.D., Ph.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues used data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study to define five low-risk lifestyle factors, and estimated hazard ratios for the association of total lifestyle score with mortality.
Americans have a shorter average life expectancy - 79.3 years - than nearly all other high-income countries.
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"Our findings have significant public health implications, because they demonstrate the great potential of diet and lifestyle changes in improving life expectancy", said senior researcher Dr. Researchers also found that study participants who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles.
"This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the USA population", commented senior author Frank Hu.
"The projected life expectancy at age 50 years was on average 14.0 years (95% CI, 11.8-16.2) longer among female Americans with 5 lowrisk factors compared with those with zero low-risk factors; for men, the difference was 12.2 years (95% CI, 10.1-14.2)", the researchers reported in their study, which was published in the journal Circulation on Monday.
The research, spanning more than three decades, followed approximately 123,000 US health professionals, aged 30 and 75 at the outset.
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There was a similar pattern for men, with those who did not adopt any of the five factors having a life expectancy of 25.5 years at age 50, compared with 37.6 years for those who adopted all of them. According to the World Health Organization, life expectancy at birth in 2015 was 76.9 and 81.6 years old for U.S. men and women respectively. The researchers suggest that without widespread obesity, this increase could have been much larger.
Given that the habits of a healthy lifestyle are well known, the mystery is why we are so bad at adopting them, said Stampfer.
"This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the USA population".
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