This large prospective study from Harvard University examined comprehensively how a combination of multiple lifestyle factors may relate to life expectancy free from major diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Adherence to a healthy lifestyle at mid-life is associated with a longer life expectancy free of major diseases.
The average life expectancy in the world has increased substantially in the past few decades. The ageing of the population has led to a high prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Although people live longer, older individuals often live with disabilities and chronic diseases. Individuals with chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes have a shorter life expectancy than their peers who live without these chronic conditions.
In this study, the effect of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes was examined, using data from up to 34 years of follow-up in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and 28 years of follow-up in the Health Professions Follow-up Study (HPFS) including more than 110.000 participants.
Few studies have comprehensively examined how a combination of multiple lifestyle factors may relate to life expectancy free from major diseases.
A healthy lifestyle score was developed based on 5 factors:
- moderate to strenuous physical activity
- moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (5-15 g/d for women, 5-30 g/d for men)
- body weight (Body Mass Index)
The results showed that the adherence to a low risk lifestyle was associated with a longer life expectancy at age 50 free of major chronic diseases: for men approximately 7.6 years and for women 10 years compared to participants with no low risk lifestyle factors.
One of these 5 factors was the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages: Middle-age women who reported drinking up to 15 g of alcohol/day and men who consumed up to 30 g of alcohol/d were less likely to get prematurely heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The authors concluded that a healthier lifestyle was associated with a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes as well as mortality, with an increased total life expectancy and number of years lived free of these diseases. Their findings suggest that the promotion of a healthy lifestyle would help to reduce the healthcare burdens by lowering the risk of developing multiple chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and extending disease-free life expectancy.
Li Y et al 2020, Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study, BMJ 2020;368:l6669, http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6669