Rx for longer life: Maintain healthy habits

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Want to live longer? An observational study published online Nov. 24, 2016, by The BMJ suggests that the greater the number of healthy lifestyle behaviors you maintain—like exercising regularly—the lower your risk of dying prematurely, even if you are overweight. Researchers analyzed the questionnaire responses of more than 113,000 generally healthy men and women, who were followed for more than 30 years. The risk of an early death fell with each additional healthy lifestyle behavior, such as never smoking, doing more than 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, eating a healthy diet, and consuming alcohol in moderation (up to one drink per day for women, up to two drinks per day for men). People who had at least three healthy behaviors and a healthy weight had a 61% lower risk of dying from all causes during the study period, compared with overweight people with no healthy lifestyle behaviors. And even among overweight people, death risk declined with each additional healthy lifestyle behavior. "We largely control our own destiny when it comes to preventing major chronic diseases that affect life span, and this study is a good reminder to take the reins," says Dr. JoAnn Manson, one of the study authors and chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.