Study Supports Healthy Lifestyle Benefits

April 28, 2010 ( – A new long-term study of the health of British adults concludes that smoking and drinking too much, being a couch potato, and eating poorly, all combined, can age a person by 12 years.

According to an Associated Press news report, 314 people studied had all four unhealthy habits and 91 died during the study, or 29%. Meanwhile, among the 387 healthiest people with none of the four habits, only 32 died, or about 8%.

The findings are from a study that tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years, the AP said. Study participants were 4,886 British adults aged 18 and older, or 44 years old on average. Death certificates were checked and most common causes of death included heart disease and cancer, both related to unhealthy lifestyles.

The risky behaviors focused on were: smoking tobacco; downing more than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women; getting less than two hours of physical activity per week; and eating fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily.

The healthiest group included never-smokers and those who had quit; women who had fewer than two drinks daily and men who had fewer than three; those who got at least two hours of physical activity weekly; and those who ate fruits and vegetables at least three times daily.

Study authors said people don’t have to go the extreme to make productive lifestyle changes. For example, one carrot, one apple and a glass of orange juice would suffice for the fruit and vegetable cutoffs in the study. The U.S. government generally recommends at least 4 cups of fruits or vegetables daily for adults, depending on age and activity level, and about 2 1/2 hours of exercise weekly.