January 08, 2008
4 Factors Add 14 Years To Life Expectancy

Want to live longer? Don't smoke. Eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruits daily. Get moderate exercise. Drink between 1 and 14 glasses of wine or half pints of beer per week. A study of over 25,000 people in Norfolk county UK published in Plos Medicine found that people who smoke, do not get enough fruits and vegetables, do not get enough exercise, and do not drink moderately die 14 years sooner on average than people who are the opposite on these lifestyle characteristics.

What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

Between 1993 and 1997, about 20,000 men and women aged 45–79 living in Norfolk UK, none of whom had cancer or cardiovascular disease (heart or circulation problems), completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire, had a health examination, and had their blood vitamin C level measured as part of the EPIC-Norfolk study. A health behavior score of between 0 and 4 was calculated for each participant by giving one point for each of the following healthy behaviors: current non-smoking, not physically inactive (physical inactivity was defined as having a sedentary job and doing no recreational exercise), moderate alcohol intake (1–14 units a week; a unit of alcohol is half a pint of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of spirit), and a blood vitamin C level consistent with a fruit and vegetable intake of at least five servings a day. Deaths among the participants were then recorded until 2006. After allowing for other factors that might have affected their likelihood of dying (for example, age), people with a health behavior score of 0 were four times as likely to have died (in particular, from cardiovascular disease) than those with a score of 4. People with a score of 2 were twice as likely to have died.

What Do These Findings Mean?

These findings indicate that the combination of four simply defined health behaviors predicts a 4-fold difference in the risk of dying over an average period of 11 years for middle-aged and older people. They also show that the risk of death (particularly from cardiovascular disease) decreases as the number of positive health behaviors increase. Finally, they can be used to calculate that a person with a health score of 0 has the same risk of dying as a person with a health score of 4 who is 14 years older.

A Danish study also published today found the same benefits from moderate alcohol and moderate exercise in over 11,000 Danes.

People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol and are physically active have a lower risk of death from heart disease and other causes than people who don’t drink at all, according to new research. People who neither drink alcohol nor exercise have a 30-49 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those who either drink, exercise or both.

The research, which was published in the European Heart Journal [1] today (Wednesday 9 January), is the first to look at the combined influence of leisure-time physical activity and weekly alcohol intake on the risk of fatal ischaemic heart disease (a form of heart disease characterised by a reduced blood supply to the heart) and deaths from all causes.

Between 1981-1983 Danish researchers obtained information on various health-related issues (including exercise and alcohol intake) from 11,914 Danish men and women aged 20 or older, who were taking part in the larger, Copenhagen City Heart Study.

Want to do more? Add some fish for an added health benefit. Eat even more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and some nuts too. Also, reduce your red meat consumption and lower your dietary glycemic index.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 January 08 10:55 PM  Aging Lifestyle Studies

odograph said at January 9, 2008 1:14 PM:

Well, I talked the guys into walking to lunch today. That covered exercise, fruits and vegetables, and sun exposure. There was some talk of sake for moderate alcohol consumption ...

Brett Bellmore said at January 9, 2008 1:44 PM:

Does somebody sell alcohol in gel caps? I swear, if there's a gene for alcohol tasting terrible, I've got it in duplicate. The rest of the recipe is fine, but I've never mastered the art of getting drunk enough before starting drinking to be able to choke that stuff down. I'm serious about this; Anybody got some hints on how to drink moderately without having to actually TASTE that damned organic solvent? Maybe a nasal-gastric tube?

In the mean time, I've got a doctor to discuss the exercise portion with this Friday; Got an anterior compression fracture of my 12 vertebra last week in a sledding accident, and I'm not exercising any more than I have to until I've discussed this with the doc. It's bad enough just tying my shoe laces...

Kelly Parks said at January 9, 2008 3:01 PM:

I recall hearing that the "moderate alcohol" study was flawed. The reason people who didn't drink at all had a higher mortality rate was because the study included people who *couldn't* drink for health reasons. Since that cohort there included people in very poor health, of course they had a higher mortality rate.

Fly said at January 9, 2008 4:58 PM:

Unless the studies corrected for IQ, education, or SES, the usual warning that "correlation does not imply causation" applies. E.g., see women's risk for heart disease and HRT.

Rob Sperry said at January 10, 2008 1:12 AM:

I second Brett, I have a strong negative reaction every time I try even the smallest amount of alcohol.

Anyone know the cause of this?

Bob Badour said at January 10, 2008 8:26 AM:


Would "Good sense" suffice as an answer? Alcohol is an acquired taste. If you try it many times in spite of the bad taste, you will come to enjoy it. If one has the good sense not to drink things that taste bad....

I suppose one could ease into it with sweet wines like sherry or port, but sugar is poison so one's mileage may vary.

Martha Jean Smith said at June 29, 2008 11:39 AM:

If you do not want to do the alcohol, try relaxing meditation and red grape juice, blueberry, or concord grape juices which all have the revitalyizing resterverol and other immune building anti-free radical characteristics. Basically, if you decided to grow a garden you would compliment the recommendations: by getting more vegetables/fruits in your diet, by exercising to take care of the garden, by moderate sun exposure (wear a hat and sunscreen) to promote vitamin d production, reduce depression (sunlight entering eyes improves mood and enhances defenses against negative thoughts). after you have eaten the produce from your garden you will have thus avoided the chemical compounds associated with prepared foods, sprayed vegetables and the lack of nutrition in canned vegetables, and will thereby also have reduced consumption of glycemic factors found in artificial corn syrups and additives since you natural sugar consumption will have effectively supplanted the desire to consume the artificial ones being that you are already wholesomely satisfied.

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