BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
MODERATE ALCOHOL INTAKE
EAT 5 SERVINGS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES DAILY
This important study reported in January in the Journal PLosMedicine is elegant in it's simplicity and rigorous in its follow-up and analysis.
Between 1993 and 1997, about 20,000 men and women aged 45–79 living in Norfolk UK, none of whom had cancer or cardiovascular disease (heart or circulation problems), completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire, had a health examination, and had their blood vitamin C level measured as part of the EPIC-Norfolk study.
A health behavior score of between 0 and 4 was calculated for each participant by giving one point for each of the following healthy behaviors:
1) Current non-smoking
2) Not physically inactive (physical inactivity was defined as having a sedentary job and doing no recreational exercise)
3) Moderate alcohol intake (1–14 units a week; a unit of alcohol is half a pint of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of spirit)
4) A blood vitamin C level consistent with a fruit and vegetable intake of at least five servings a day.
Deaths among the participants were then recorded until 2006. After allowing for other factors that might have affected their likelihood of dying (for example, age), people with a health behavior score of 0 were four times as likely to have died (in particular, from cardiovascular disease) than those with a score of 4. People with a score of 2 were twice as likely to have died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the combination of four simply defined health behaviors predicts a 4-fold difference in the risk of dying over an average period of 11 years for middle-aged and older people. They also show that the risk of death (particularly from cardiovascular disease) decreases as the number of positive health behaviors increase.
Finally, they can be used to calculate that a person with a health score of 0 has the same risk of dying as a person with a health score of 4 who is 14 years older. They strongly suggest that modest and achievable lifestyle changes have a marked effect on the health of populations. Quality of life is strongly correlated with mortality.
Two other things struck me;
1) those who took vitamin supplements had no increase death rate, contradicting the meta-analysis mentioned in a previous post.
2) it reinforces the importance of fruits and vegetables as a source of vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients.