Extend your life
Don't smoke. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables: that is, at least five servings a day. Drink alcohol in moderation, that is 1 to 14 units a week; a unit of alcohol was defined as half a pint of beer, a glass of wine or a shot of spirit. Exercise regularly.
To get an extra 14 years of life, don't smoke, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and drink alcohol in moderation.
That's the finding of a study that tracked about 20,000 people in the United Kingdom.
Kay-Tee Khaw, of the University of Cambridge, and colleagues calculated that people who adopted these four healthful habits lived an average of 14 years longer than those who didn't.
"We've known for a long time that these behaviors are good things to do, but we've never seen these additive benefits before," said Susan Jebb, head of Nutrition and Health at Britain's Medical Research Council, which helped pay for the study.
"Just doing one of these behaviors helps, but every step you make to improve your health seems to have an added benefit," said Jebb, who was not involved in the study.
The benefits were also seen regardless of whether people were overweight and what social class they came from. The findings were published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal.
The study included healthy adults 45 to 79 who were tracked from 1993 to 2006. Khaw said the study should convince people that improving their health does not always require extreme changes to their lifestyles. "We didn't ask these people to do anything exceptional," Khaw said. "We measured normal behaviors that were entirely feasible within people's normal, everyday lives." Public-health experts said they hoped the study would inspire governments to help people adopt these changes. "This research is an important piece of work which emphasizes how modifying just a few risk factors can add years to your life," said Dr. Tim Armstrong, a physical-activity expert at the World Health Organization. Because the study only observed people rather than test specific changes, experts said it would be impossible to conclude that people who suddenly adopted these healthful habits would automatically gain 14 years. "We can't say that any one person could gain 14 years by doing these things," Armstrong said. "The 14 years is an average across the population of what's theoretically possible."
By MARIA CHENG
The Associated Press
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company