Harvard Women's Health Watch

From the journals: Four small lifestyle changes can mean an extra 14 years

From the journals

Four small lifestyle changes can mean an extra 14 years

If your New Year's resolve to eat better and be more active is wearing thin, here's some news that may help bolster your efforts: scientists have reported that people who engage in just four healthy behaviors — eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, drinking moderately, not smoking, and getting some kind of physical activity daily — live 14 years longer, on average, than people who don't have these habits. This finding, published in the January 2008 issue of the journal Public Library of Science Medicine, held true even among people who were overweight.

Many studies have examined the benefits of individual healthy behaviors, such as getting regular exercise or adhering to a particular diet, but this study focused on the combined effect of a few modest — and realistically achievable — lifestyle choices.

British researchers with the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) kept track of 20,244 healthy men and women, ages 45 to 79, who filled out health behavior questionnaires between 1993 and 1997. Participants were given one point for each of the following healthy habits: not smoking, taking one to 14 drinks per week, having some level of physical activity (at the very least, a job that required standing or up to one-half hour of daily recreational activity), and having a blood level of vitamin C that was consistent with eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

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