London, Sept 17 : Women could halve their risk of premature death by avoiding cigarettes, exercising regularly, keeping a check on their diet and alcohol intake, and disease history, according to a new study.
The study has been published online in the British Medical Journal.
To reach the conclusion, Dr Rob van Dam and his team from the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital, reviewed nearly 80 000 women aged 34 to 59 years in 1980 who were part of the Nurses' Health Study in the US.
The research team analysed the data of over 1.5 million person-years follow up over a 24-year period, reports the British Medical Journal.
The volunteers completed detailed follow-up questionnaires every two years about their diet, frequency of physical activity, alcohol intake, weight, how much they smoked, and disease history. Deaths were confirmed by next of kin and the National Death Index.
Over the follow-up period the authors documented 8 882 deaths including 1 790 from heart disease and 4 527 from cancer.
The authors estimated that 28percent of these deaths could have been avoided if women had never smoked and that 55percent could have been avoided if women had combined never smoking, regular physical activity, a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight.
Alcohol intake did not substantially change this estimate, although heavy alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of dying from cancer.
Smoking was found to be the biggest cause of premature death but all the other factors also contributed.
The researchers conclude, "Even modest differences in lifestyle can have a substantial impact on reducing mortality rates".