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Healthy Living Adds Years to Life
Date:3/23/2010

But disparities in longevity still tied to geography, race and income, study shows

TUESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Americans who smoke, have high blood pressure, high blood sugar and are overweight may be shortening their life expectancy by an average of four years, a new study finds.

In fact, men may be shortening their lives by 4.9 years while women could be shaving 4.1 years off their lives, the researchers say. However, there is even greater variance in the effects of these factors on life expectancy across the United States based on geography, race and income.

"These risk factors are cutting life expectancy for any average American," said lead researcher Majid Ezzati, an associate professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

"That number is actually quite larger in some groups than others," he said. "It is getting to six or seven years for some of the disadvantaged groups."

The message: Not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, keeping blood pressure down and keeping blood sugar levels low will help people live longer. This will not only save a lot of lives, but benefit the most disadvantaged the most, Ezzati added.

The report is published in the March edition of the online journal PLoS Medicine.

For the study, Ezzati's team collected data on people who participated in the 2005 studies from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. They also looked at epidemiologic studies on the effects of these risk factors.

Based on the data, the researchers were able to estimate the number of deaths that would have been prevented if these risk factors were at optimal levels and how optimal levels would increase life expectancy.

In addition, they estimated these factors for subgroups in the United States kno
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