Healthy Living Really Does Postpone Mortality

A low-risk lifestyle, with an emphasis on healthy eating and being active, has a “powerful and beneficial” effect on mortality, CDC researchers found.

People who practiced four low-risk behaviors — not smoking, eating healthy, getting enough exercise, and drinking alcohol moderately — were 63% less likely to die within the 18-year study period than those who kept none of those practices, Earl Ford, PhD, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues reported online in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Our results add to the evidence base regarding the favorable effect of healthy living on mortality,” they wrote. “The estimates of mortality that can be postponed underscore the need for improving the overall level of healthy living in the United States.”

Two years ago, Ford and colleagues found that keeping four similar behaviors reduced the risk of major chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Yet fewer studies have looked at the influence that these behaviors exert on all-cause mortality.

The researchers assessed data from 16,958 participants, ages 17 and up, in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III Mortality Study from 1988 to 2006.

Overall, they found that all four low-risk behaviors were individually associated with a reduction in death, and that the higher number of behaviors practiced, the lower the risk of death.

Not smoking showed the greatest reduction in mortality risk (adjusted hazard ratio 0.64, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.71), but the researchers noted that there was variation in the magnitude of risk reduction for the various behaviors in terms of the other outcomes, including cardiovascular and cancer mortality.

Compared with those who didn’t practice any of the low-risk behaviors, patients who performed all four had a 63% reduced risk of all-cause death (adjusted HR 0.37, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.49). They also had a reduced risk of death from:

  • Malignant neoplasms (adjusted HR 0.34, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.56)
  • Major cardiovascular disease (adjusted HR 0.35, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.50)
  • Other causes (adjusted HR 0.43, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.74)

The researchers also found that the rate of advancement periods — a representation of the equivalent risk from aging a certain number of years — for those who practiced high-risk behaviors (rather than low-risk ones) compared with those who practiced none was equivalent to the risk of:

  • 11.1 years for all-cause death
  • vv14.4 years for malignant neoplasms
  • 9.9 years for major cardiovascular disease
  • vv10.6 years for other causes

Ford and colleagues said the results are consistent with several other studies and concluded that “four low-risk behaviors exert a powerful protective effect on mortality and several cause-specific categories of mortality.”

Source :