Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Life is fraught with uncertainty but evidence continues to suggest the decisions you make can largely determine how long you live. What is less clear is whether a healthy lifestyle impacts longevity in the presence of two or more chronic conditions. Researchers in a study published in PLOS Medicine investigated this relationship.
They set out to examine the relationship between healthy lifestyle and life expectancy in people with and without two or more chronic conditions.
A total of 480,940 middle-aged adults (median age of 58 years [range 38–73], 46 percent male, 95 percent white) were analysed in the UK Biobank study.
UK Biobank is a large-scale biomedical database and research resource, containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants.
The researchers collected data between 2006 and 2010 and focused on 36 chronic conditions for their comparative analysis.
Four lifestyle factors, based on national guidelines, were used: leisure-time physical activity, smoking, diet, and alcohol consumption.
Participants were grouped into four categories: very unhealthy, unhealthy, healthy, and very healthy.
Survival models were applied to predict life expectancy, adjusting for ethnicity, working status, deprivation, body mass index, and sedentary time.
“For individual lifestyle factors, no current smoking was associated with the largest survival benefit,” the researchers found.
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They also found that regardless of the presence of multimorbidity (two or more conditions), engaging in a healthier lifestyle was associated with up to 6.3 years longer life for men and 7.6 years for women.
“However, not all lifestyle risk factors equally correlated with life expectancy, with smoking being significantly worse than others,” they concluded.
Why smoking poses such a grave threat to your health
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK.
Every year around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses.
What’s more, smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions, warns the NHS.
“Some may be fatal, and others can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health.”
You can become ill:
- If you smoke yourself
- If people around you smoke (passive smoking).
The best way for people who smoke to reduce their risk of serious health problems, such as cancer, and improve their health is therefore to stop smoking completely.
“The best way to stop smoking is using a combination of a stop smoking treatment and specialist help from local stop smoking services,” notes Cancer Research UK.
According to the charity, you’re around three times more likely to stop smoking for good with their advice and support.
They offer a range of help including:
- Free one to one or group counselling where a trained advisor can support you to break your smoking habits
- Providing different medicines and treatments to help control cravings
- Advice on switching to e-cigarettes and how to best use them.
“Although more research is needed into their long-term effects, evidence so far shows that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking,” notes Cancer Research UK.
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