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Health

Study shows it’s never too late to give up bad habits

Researchers described the results as "empowering" for people of any age, in any state of health.

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(ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can add years to your life...even in your 80s, according to new research from Japan.

Reducing drinking, not smoking, losing weight and increasing sleep produce the biggest gains.

These lifestyle alterations increased longevity by six years in healthy 40-year-olds, with benefits even more prominent in those twice the age.

They also applied to individuals with life-threatening illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease.

The study shows it is never too late to give up bad habits and shed those pounds. It was based on almost 50,000 people in Japan tracked for up to 20 years.

Senior author Professor Hiroyasu Iso said: "This is a particularly important finding given that the prevalence of chronic disease has increased globally and is a major cause of death in older populations."

The Osaka University team say taking ownership of your health is key to a pleasurable retirement.

They said: "Idioms and proverbs about the importance of maintaining good health span the ages.

"Many emphasize how closely health is tied to happiness and the opportunity to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life."

The analysis in the journal Age and Ageing found healthy behaviors have a marked effect on lifespan.

Adopting five or more healthy behaviors increased life expectancy - even for individuals over 80, including those with chronic conditions.

Lifespan is dependent on socioeconomic status, policies such as assisted access to healthcare and lifestyle factors.

Between 1988 and 1990 study participants filled in surveys that included questions about diet and exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking status, sleep duration and BMI (body mass index). They were also asked about any illnesses.

Man is breaking cigarette isolated on white background. Give up smoking. Refuse from bad habit. Dangerous. Social and health problems.
The study showed it's never to late to reap the benefits of quitting cigarettes, eating more healthily and exercising regularly. (MorphoBio/Shutterstock)

The aim was to increase knowledge about what factors contribute to death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Points were awarded for each healthy behavior and the impact of modifying them on projected lifespan was assessed.

The project continued until December 2009, by which time nearly 9,000 individuals had died.

First author Dr. Ryoto Sakaniwa said: "The results were very clear. A higher number of modified healthy behaviours was directly associated with great longevity for both men and women."

It is one of the first studies to measure the impact of improvements to health behavior among older individuals in a country with a national life expectancy achieving almost 85 years.

The researchers added: "The finding that lifestyle improvements have a positive impact on health despite chronic health conditions and older age is an empowering one, especially given the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and longer life.

"The findings of this study will contribute to the design of future healthcare settings, public health approaches, and policies that work in partnership with patients to promote healthy lifestyle choices."

Two years ago a study found women can gain ten and men seven years of life free of cancer, heart problems and type-2 diabetes from a healthy lifestyle.

We must exercise regularly, drink in moderation only, have a healthy weight, good diet and not smoke.

That research was based on 111,000 Americans tracked for more than 20 years.

Lead author Dr. Frank Hu, of Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, described the findings as "a positive message for the public."

He opined: "They gain not just more years of life but good years through improved lifestyle choices."

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