Health changes can prolong life 14 years: study

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Melbourne, Jan 8 (UNI) People who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day live on average live 14 years longer than people who adopt none of these behaviours, research says.

''These results may provide further support for the idea that even small differences in lifestyle may make a big difference to health in the population and encourage behaviour change," the report, published in the journal PLoS Medicine said.

Between 1993 and 1997 the researchers questioned 20,000 healthy British men and women about their lifestyles. They also tested every participant's blood to measure vitamin C intake, an indicator of how much fruit and vegetables people ate, The Age reported.

Then they assigned the participants aged 45-79, a score between zero and four, giving one point for each of the healthy behaviours.

After allowing for age and other factors that could affect the likelihood of dying, the authors determined people with a score of zero were four times as likely to have died, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

They tracked deaths among the participants until 2006 and said a person with a health score of zero had the same risk of dying as someone with a health score of four who was 14 years older.

The lifestyle change with the biggest benefit was giving up smoking, which led to an 80 per cent improvement in health, the study found. This was followed by eating fruits and vegetables.

Moderate drinking and keeping active brought the same benefits, Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues at the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council said.

''Armed with this information, public-health officials should now be in a better position to encourage behaviour changes likely to improve the health of middle-aged and older people,'' the researchers wrote.

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