Healthier Living: Living Longer

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Eating fruits and vegetables is good for you. Add exercising and it’s even healthier. Combine a healthy weight to the mix and the risk of an early death continues to decrease.

This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news, but the findings of a new study showing how healthy lifestyle patterns may reduce the risk of an early death are striking.

The study is published in the journal PLoS Medicine and here is the abstract.

The authors used data from about 71,000 Chinese women who are part the Shanghai Women’s Healthy Study. The women never smoked or drank alcohol regularly.

Researchers gave one point for each of five health factors: being a normal weight; lower waist-hip ratio (an estimate of abdominal fat); regular exercise; never exposed to spouse’s smoking; and relatively high fruit and vegetable daily intake. Scores ranged from 0 points (having no health factors) to 5 points (having all health factors).

After an average of 9 years, the researchers found that the higher the healthy lifestyle score, the lower the risk of death from all causes, as well as from cardiovascular diseases and cancer, specifically. This finding held true regardless of whether the women started out with a disease.

Women with 4 to 5 healthy lifestyle factors had a 43 percent lower risk of death overall during the course of the study compared to women with a score of zero: Specifically, heart disease mortality was reduced by 71 percent and cancer mortality by 24 percent.

When it comes to cancer incidence, the AICR’s 2009 policy report found almost a quarter of all the cancer cases in the United States are preventable through healthy lifestyle habits.

Want to see how you rate when it comes to healthy habits? Take our quiz on diet and physical activity.


Author: Mya Nelson

Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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