(Health Secrets) Four bad habits can shorten your life by 12 years according to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. These bad habits were:
- Smoking tobacco
- Downing more than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women
- Getting less than two hours of physical activity per week
- Eating fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily
In the study, researchers examined 4886 British adults who were age 18 or older in 1984 and 1985. The researchers then assigned a health score for each person based on bad health habits. A score of zero was assigned to those who had none of the four bad habits and it increased up to a score of four for those who had all four.
Death certificates were checked for the next 20 years, and the researchers found that the higher the score, the shorter the average lifespan was likely to be. The most common causes of death included heart disease and cancer. Both of these are degenerative diseases related to unhealthy lifestyles.
During the 20 year average follow up time, 1080 of the participants died – 431 from cardiovascular disease, 318 from cancer and 331 from other causes. Compared with participants who had none of the bad health habits, the risk of death increased with each additional bad habit.
The healthiest group included those who had:
- Never smoked and those who had quit
- Teetotalers and women who had fewer than two drinks daily and men who had fewer than three
- Those who got at least two hours of physical activity weekly
- Those who ate fruits and vegetables at least three times daily.
Lead researcher Elisabeth Kvaavik of the University of Oslo said her results are applicable to other westernized nations including the United States. Kvaavik also noted that “you don’t need to be extreme” to be in the healthy category.
“These behaviors add up, so together it’s quite good” said Kvaavik. “It should be possible for most people to manage to do it.”
Kvaavik said that the guidelines used for the study were modest and less strict than many other health guidelines. As an example, eating only one carrot, one apple and a glass of orange juice would suffice for the fruit and vegetable cutoffs in the study.
By comparison, the U.S. government recommends four or more cups of fruits or vegetables daily for adults, depending on age and activity level. The U.S. guidelines also call for about 2 1/2 hours of exercise weekly compared to the two hour cut-off for the study.
University of North Carolina public health researcher June Stevens said the results are similar to those of previous studies that examined the combined effects of health-related habits on longevity.
Stevens also observed that, while the findings don’t mean that everyone who maintains a healthy lifestyle will live longer than those who don’t, doing so will increase the odds.
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