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Four Unhealthy Behaviors Linked to Premature Death

People who smoke, drink, rarely exercise, and skimp on fruits and veggies die earlier than usual, study finds

MONDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of four unhealthy behaviors -- smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet and substantial alcohol consumption -- greatly increases the risk of premature death, a new study has found.

The study, published in the April 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, included 4,886 people, aged 18 or older, who were interviewed in 1984-1985.

"A health behavior score was calculated, allocating one point for each poor behavior: smoking; fruits and vegetables consumed less than three times daily; less than two hours of physical activity per week; and weekly consumption of more than 14 units [one unit equals 8 grams, or about 0.3 ounces] of alcohol (in women) and more than 21 units in men," wrote Elisabeth Kvaavik, of the University of Oslo, and colleagues.

Over an average follow-up period of 20 years, there were 1,080 reported deaths among study participants: 431 due to cardiovascular disease, 318 due to cancer and 331 due to other causes. Compared to those with no bad health habits, those with all four unhealthy behaviors were about three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease or cancer, four times more likely to die from all other causes, and had an overall death risk equivalent to being 12 years older.

"Modest but achievable adjustments to lifestyle behaviors are likely to have a considerable impact at both the individual and population level," the researchers concluded. "Developing more efficacious methods by which to promote healthy diets and lifestyles across the population should be an important priority of public health policy."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about healthy living.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, April 26, 2010

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