People who adopt four healthy behaviours not smoking; taking exercise; moderate alcohol intake; and eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day live on average an additional fourteen years of life compared with people who adopt none of these behaviours, according to a study published in the open access journal PLoS Medicine.
Rather than focusing on how an individual factor is related to health, the study calculates the combined impact of these four simply-defined forms of behaviour. The results suggest that several small changes in lifestyle could have a marked impact on the health of populations.
There is overwhelming evidence showing that lifestyles such as smoking, diet and physical activity influence health and longevity but there is little information about their combined impact. Furthermore the huge amount of information provided by these studies and the varying definitions of a health behaviour that these studies use can often make them confusing for public health professionals and for the general public. For example: small amounts of alcohol appear to be related to lower risk of cardiovascular disease health but what is the overall impact on longevity "
In order to examine the combined impact of changes in lifestyle, Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council used a health behaviour score that is easy to understand in order to assess the participants in the study (who were from Norfolk, United Kingdom). Between 1993 and 1997, 20,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 79, none of whom had known cancer or heart or circulatory disease, completed a questionnaire that resulted in a score between 0 and 4. A point was awarded for each of the following: not currently smoking; not being physically inactive (physical inactivity was defined as having a sedentary job and not doing any recreational exercise); a moderate alcohol intake of 1-14 units a week (a unit is half a
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