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Four healthy habits can prolong your life by fourteen years

If you moderate your alcohol intake, exercise daily, eat five portions of fruit and vegetables and don't smoke, you'll live 14 years longer than if you did not do these four things. Epidemiologists at the University of Cambridge come to this conclusion in article they published in PLoS Medicine.

The researchers gave the subjects points for their lifestyle. The healthier the habit, the more points they got. The researchers only looked at 4 elements: moderate alcohol use, non-smoking, regular physical activity and the concentration of vitamin C in the blood. If the latter exceeded 50 nanomoles per litre, they assumed that the subject ate five portions of fruit or vegetables per day.

The more healthy lifestyle points the Brits had, the greater their chance of surviving the 11 years that the study lasted.

The figure above shows the effect of the amount of healthy habits on death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and the category 'other factors'. The researchers set the chance of mortality in the group with 4 healthy lifestyle factors at 1.

The effect of the habits measured is greatest in the category ‘other' [Non-CVD non-cancer].

The lifestyle factors that the researchers measured are pretty ordinary ones. That smoking is bad for you and that eating your greens is healthy is hardly headline news. Nevertheless, the researchers are surprised at how big their cumulative effect is. "Though relatively modest and achievable, their combined impact was associated with an estimated 4-fold difference in mortality risk, equivalent to 14 years in chronological age."

Fourteen years. There you go, thanks a lot.

PLoS Med. 2008 Jan 8; 5(1): e12.

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