April 30, 2018
2 min read

Healthy lifestyle may prolong life expectancy in US adults

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Adults who follow five low-risk lifestyle-related factors have significantly longer projected life expectancy than those who follow none, researchers reported.

The gap in life expectancy between Americans and those in other high-income countries may be narrowed by adopting a healthier lifestyle, according to a study published in Circulation.

“A comprehensive analysis of the impact of adopting low-risk lifestyle factors on life expectancy in the U.S. population is lacking,” Yanping Li, MD, PhD, from the department of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues wrote in the study background.

According to the researchers, adherence to five low-risk lifestyle-related factors — never smoking, a healthy weight, regular physical activity, a healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption — could significantly prolong life expectancy at age 50 years for U.S. adult men and women compared with individuals who adopted no low-risk lifestyle factors.

Adopting healthy lifestyle choices may prolong life expectancy
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

To estimate the effect of lifestyle factors on premature mortality and life expectancy in the U.S. population, Li and colleagues used data from the Nurses’ Health Study (n = 78,865) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (n = 44,354) to define and estimated HRs for the association of total lifestyle score (on a scale of 0 to 5) with mortality.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013-2014 survey to estimate the distribution of the lifestyle score and the CDC WONDER database to derive the age-specific death rates of Americans and applied the life-table method to estimate life expectancy by levels of the lifestyle score.

A total of 42,167 deaths were recorded during 34-year follow-up.

Healthy lifestyle reduced mortality

The multivariable-adjusted HRs for mortality were 0.26 (95% CI, 0.22-0.31) for all-cause mortality, 0.35 (95% CI, 0.27-0.45) for cancer mortality and 0.18 (95% CI, 0.12-0.26) for CVD mortality in adults with five low-risk lifestyle factors compared with adults with zero.


According to the study, the population-attributable risk of nonadherence to the five low-risk factors was 60.7% (95% CI, 53.6-66.7) for all-cause mortality, 51.7% (95% CI, 37.1-62.9) for cancer mortality and 71.7% (95% CI, 58.1-81) for CVD mortality.

For adults who adopted no low-risk lifestyle factors, life expectancy at age 50 years was 29 years (95% CI, 28.3-29.8) in women and 25.5 years (95% CI, 24.7-26.2) in men, according to the researchers.

Those who adopted all five low-risk factors, however, were projected to have a life expectancy at age 50 years of 43.1 years (95% CI, 41.3-44.9) for women and 37.6 years (95% CI, 35.8-39.4) for men, they wrote.

Life expectancy impact

The difference in projected life expectancy at age 50 years for those who adopted all five factors vs. those who adopted none were 14 years (95% CI, 11.8-16.2) for women and 12.2 years (95% CI, 10.1-14.2) for men.

“Quantifying the association between healthy lifestyle factors and longer life expectancy is important not only for individual behavioral changes but also for health communicators and policymakers,” Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a press release. “It is critical to put prevention first. Prevention, through diet and lifestyle modifications, has enormous benefits in terms of reducing occurrence of chronic diseases, improving life expectancy as shown in this study, and reducing health care costs.” by Dave Quaile

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.