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Healthier Lifestyles Would Lengthen American Lives
Date:7/7/2008

Major study suggests slimming down, quitting smoking would boost average life span by 1.3 years

MONDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- If 156 million adults in the United States took better care of themselves, the average American would live 1.3 years longer, and the number of heart attacks would fall by 63 percent.

That's the conclusion of a joint study released Monday that combined the resources of the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society.

"Prevention makes a difference," said study co-author Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, chief science officer of the American Heart Association. "You can live longer, maybe substantially longer, and you can have a much healthier life."

Even a more realistic scenario -- assuming, among other things, that just 20 percent of obese Americans lost weight -- would lead to major improvements in the country's overall health, researchers found.

There's a hitch: The health gains are entirely hypothetical. The study is an exercise designed to measure scenarios in which millions of Americans stopped doing things that are bad for them.

One scenario examined what would happen if the 78 percent of Americans aged 20-80 with risk factors that threaten their health didn't have those risk factors anymore.

Some smoke. Others are heavy, suffer from high cholesterol or high blood pressure, don't take aspirin when their heart attack risk is high, or have other risk factors they don't control through a healthy lifestyle or medication.

The researchers assumed that all those Americans -- 156 million of them -- managed to stop smoking, lose weight, and control other risk factors. Then they used a statistical model to predict what would happen.

Under this scenario, the number of heart attacks would fall by nearly two-thirds, and strokes would decline by almost at third, the researchers found.

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