A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) highlights 5 life decisions that can prolong your “disease free” years.
Aging increases the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer. Fortunately, lifestyle interventions can mitigate these risks and maximize the benefits of living longer.
The study examined the effect of five healthy lifestyle measures on life expectancy and disease rates.
To combine the results, the researchers analyzed data on 73,196 registered nurses in the United States from the Nurses’ Health Study and 38,366 American male health professionals from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who were free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes at enrollment.
The study is among the largest investigations into risk factors for major chronic diseases in women.
Likewise, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study is a decades-long investigation into men’s health and critical illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and other vascular diseases.
5 low-risk lifestyle factors – no smoking at all, a healthy weight (BMI), at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and a good diet – were used to calculate a healthy lifestyle score.
The sum of these five scores together gave a low-risk lifestyle score ranging from 0 to 5, with higher scores indicating a healthier lifestyle.
Participants were assessed regularly over a period of more than 20 years. During this time, new diagnoses and deaths were recorded due to cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
After adjusting for age, race, family medical history, and other potentially influential factors, life expectancy free from cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes was at age 50, 24 years for women who did not adopt any low-risk lifestyle factors, and 34 years. For women who have adopted four or five low-risk factors.
Likewise, the average life expectancy free of any of these chronic diseases was 24 years among men who did not adopt low-risk lifestyle factors, and 31 years in men who adopted four or five of the low-risk lifestyle factors.
Women with four or five low-risk lifestyle factors had a longer life expectancy of 10.6 years, free of major chronic diseases compared to women with low-risk lifestyle factors, while men had a longer life expectancy of 7.6 years. Years of free from major chronic diseases, compared to those without low-risk lifestyle factors.
This is an observational study so the cause cannot be determined, and the authors point to some limitations, such as relying on self-reported lifestyle habits, and the participants are primarily white health professionals, so the results may not generally apply.
However, the data covered a large number of subjects with detailed and repeated evaluation of lifestyle factors over a long follow-up period.
In their closing remarks, the study authors said: “Public policies to improve food and the physical environment conducive to the adoption of a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as related policies and regulations (for example, bans on smoking in public places or restrictions on trans fats) are necessary to improve the average Life expectancy, especially life expectancy free of major chronic diseases.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and it can help you feel your best.