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Study Determines Number of Disease-Free Years Associated With Healthy Lifestyle

Previous research has found that incorporating healthy habits into your life may help extend your potential life expectancy. Now a new study suggests that it may also help extend the number of years you have free of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer.

For their study, researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which began in 1980 and 1986 respectively. The studies included 111,562 participants between the ages of 30 and 75. Participants answered questions about their lifestyle habits and health every 2 years through 2014. They were given a lifestyle score based on the number of low risk lifestyle factors they incorporated into their life. The five low risk lifestyle factors were never smoking, healthy BMI, moderate to vigorous physical activity, moderate alcohol intake, and higher diet quality score.

Women who had 4 or 5 low risk lifestyle factors had a life expectancy free of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer that was 45% higher than women with no low risk lifestyle factors. That means that at the age of 50, women with 4 or 5 low risk lifestyle factors could have on average 34.4 more disease-free years, compared to 23.7 more disease-free years for women with no low risk lifestyle factors.

For men, the average number of years disease-free was 31.1 for men with 4 or 5 low risk lifestyle factors, compared to 22.6 years for men with 4 or 5 low risk lifestyle factors, a difference of 32%. Men who smoked more than 15 cigarettes per day, and men and women who were obese were found to have the lowest average number of years disease free after the age of 50.

The study was conducted by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It was published on January 8, 2020 in the BMJ

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