Not smoking, eating five servings or more of fruits and vegetables per day, drinking alcohol only in moderation (0-1.5 drinks per day), and maintaining a high level of physical activity are well known to be healthy lifestyle choices. A recent study at the University of Cambridge, England, has helped quantitatively show just how beneficial maintaining these four lifestyle choices is.
20,244 men and women, aged 45-79, filled out a survey between 1993-1997 concerning their typical diets, levels of physical activity, and drug consumption, including cigarettes and alcohol. Participants had no prior history of heart disease, cancer, diabetes or circulatory disease, and were monitored until 2006.
The study found that on average, individuals who followed the four guidelines set above were likely to live 14 years longer than those observing none of the guidelines. The results had no significant bias towards age, race or sex.
This study as it was performed is in no way absolute, and does not guarantee that those who begin observing these lifestyle choices will gain 14 years on their lives. It does show, with such a large group surveyed, that healthy lifestyle choices are directly related to life expectancy. It’s best to follow all four of the above lifestyle choices, but adopting or maintaining any of the above should increase quality of life, and as the study showed, greatly increases the chance of living longer.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Khaw, Kay-Tee, et al. PLoS Medicine. “Combined Impact of Health Behaviours and Mortality in Men and Women: The EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study.” January 2008.