Everyone has heard the advice: Don’t smoke. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise regularly. Use alcohol in moderation.
Now researchers have created a method for estimating how many extra years of healthy living might be gained by following those admonitions.
Their analysis, in JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 116,043 people ages 40 to 75 over an average of 13 years, gathering data on those four healthy behaviors. They scored the participants from 0 to 2 for the degree of adherence to each.
For example, a body mass index below 25 gets 2 points, 25 to 30 1 point and over 30 a zero. In this way, each person got a total score from 0 to 8.
The higher the score, the more years a person lived without chronic illness. Compared with a score of zero, a score of 8 was associated with 9.9 extra disease-free years for men and 9.4 years for women.
The researchers also created 16 “lifestyle profiles,” ranging from no adherence to any of the four healthy habits all the way up to total adherence to each. They found that the four profiles with the highest number of disease-free years included a B.M.I. of less than 25 and at least two of these three healthy behaviors: never smoking, sufficient physical activity and moderate alcohol consumption.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” said the lead author, Solja T. Nyberg, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, “but these results give some insight into the effects of several lifestyle choices.”