There have been numerous studies that have provided evidence that living a healthy lifestyle decreases the risk of death and improves the quality of life. Several studies have evaluated the individual impact of smoking cessation, healthy dieting, regular exercise, and limiting alcohol consumption on mortality risk and quality of life. Each of these four healthy lifestyle factors has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. The financial burden imposed by smoking, overeating, and a sedentary lifestyle is enormous. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead by Dr. Earl Ford, have evaluated all four healthy lifestyle factors on the impact of all cause mortality and provide revealing statistical results. The research findings were published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health. The researchers examined the impact of four low risk lifestyle factors (never smoked, healthy diet, adequate physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption) on mortality using data from 16,958 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III Mortality Study. Each lifestyle factor was shown to be associated with a reduction in the risk of death and combined they were additive. Study participants who practiced all four low risk lifestyle factors had 63% reduced risk of all cause mortality compared to study participants who did not practice any of the four. They also had a reduced risk of death from malignant cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes. The rate advancement periods (which represent the equivalent risk from a certain number of years of chronological age) for study participants who practiced all four high risk lifestyle behaviors compared to those who had none was 11.1 years for all cause mortality, 14.4 years for malignant neoplasms, 9.9 years for major cardiovascular disease, and 10.6 year for other causes. Study participants who reported 1, 2, and 3 low risk lifestyle factors had 25%, 40%, and 55% less chance of death. The rate advancement period for study participants with 1, 2, and 3 low risk behaviors was 3.1, 5.6, and 8.8 years, respectively. The authors wrote, “Having never smoked, healthy diet, adequate physical activity, and moderate alcohol consumption were each significantly associated with a reduced risk of mortality, and the number of these behaviors was inversely associated with the risk for mortality. Our results add to the evidence base regarding the favorable effect of healthy living on mortality… The estimates of mortality that can be postponed underscore the need for improving the overall level of healthy living in the United States”. For the very few doubter out there, this study provides hard statistical evidence that healthy lifestyle decreases mortality and improves the quality of life.
Earl S. Ford et al. “Low-Risk Lifestyle Behaviors and All-Cause Mortality: Findings From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study” American Journal of Public Health published online ahead of print August 18, 2011 doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300167