Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Healthy lifestyle adds on average 14 years to life

Everybody knows that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy. We also know that regular exercise is quite beneficial for our health. Nevertheless, diseases such as diabetes and obesity are increasing in prevalence, because adopting a healthy lifestyle is not always easy when tempted with the prospect of laziness and unhealthy food. A recent study, however, does show that adopting a healthy lifestyle is definitely something to consider: keeping a healthy heart would add at least fourteen years of disease-free living.

Risk factors
Scientists working at the Northwestern University pooled data from studies revolving around the incidence of cardiovascular diseases in relationship to known risk markers. These factors include blood pressure, cholesterol level, smoking habits and whether the person had been diagnosed with diabetes, and they are known to increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases. All participants were of middle age when included in the study, and followed up for a long time, which means the scientists were able to say something about the long-term effects.

The above mentioned factors are known to be involved in the onset of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke or myocardial infarction. Having optimal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and all the other markers would therefore mean that the risk of acquiring these diseases is lower than for someone whose levels are far from optimal. Indeed, this is what the scientists showed: those with an optimal level for all risk markers, meaning the values are considered to be healthy, were found to be disease-free for fourteen years longer, on average, than people who presented themselves with at least two factors with values outside the healthy range.

Although we already knew that having a high blood pressure and cholesterol level is not healthy, the findings are quite surprising. Fourteen years of 'extra' living, and doing so free of disease, is quite a neat reward for adopting a healthy lifestyle and keeping all known risk markers well within bounds. Of course, this study only included cardiovascular diseases, which means that people with a healthy panel of risk markers can still die of other illnesses. It also does not take hereditary factors into account: some people might not be able to attain healthy levels simply by adapting their lifestyle. Nevertheless, it is pretty clear that a healthy lifestyle, on average, pays off.

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