January 30, 2020 – A study recently released by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health outlines five healthy habits that at middle age may increase years lived free of chronic diseases. Interestingly, one of the habits is to maintain moderate consumption of alcohol, as opposed to no alcohol. Four other healthy habits are a healthy diet, regular exercise, healthy body weight and not smoking.
The study was published online January
8, 2020 in The BMJ. It is a follow-up and extension of a 2018 study, which
found that following these habits increased overall life expectancy.
“Previous studies have found that
following a healthy lifestyle improves overall life expectancy and reduces risk
of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, but few
studies have looked at the effects of lifestyle factors on life expectancy free
from such diseases,” said first author Yanping Li senior
research scientist in the Department of Nutrition. “This study provides strong
evidence that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the
years a person lives disease-free.”
The researchers looked at 34 years of
data from 73,196 women and 28 years of data from 38,366 men participating in,
respectively, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up
Study. Healthy diet was defined as a high score on the Alternate Healthy Eating
Index; regular exercise as at least 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous
activity; healthy weight as a body mass index of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2; and moderate
alcohol intake as up to one serving per day for women and up to two for men.
They found that women who practiced four or five of the healthy habits at age 50 lived an average of 34.4 more years free of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, compared to 23.7 healthy years among women who practiced none of these healthy habits. Men practicing four or five healthy habits at age 50 lived 31.1 years free of chronic disease, compared to 23.5 years among men who practiced none. Men who were current heavy smokers, and men and women with obesity had the lowest disease-free life expectancy.