That's the message from a new British study of healthy and not-so-healthy lifestyles and death rates among more than 20,200 men and women.
When the 11-year study began, participants were 45 to 79 years old. They reported their health history, drinking, smoking, and physical activity. They also got their height, weight, and blood level of vitamin C checked.
During the study, nearly 2,000 participants died. The death rate was four times lower for people with the following four health habits compared to those without any of those health habits:
- No smoking
- At least half an hour of daily physical activity
- Moderate drinking (between one and 14 alcoholic drinks per week)
- Eating at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables (based on blood levels of vitamin C)
Having all four of those health habits "was equivalent to being 14 years younger," write the University of Cambridge's Kay-Tee Khaw, PhD, and colleagues. And having one, two, or three of those healthy behaviors was better than nothing.
Social class didn't explain the results. But keep in mind that doctors don't advise teetotalers to start drinking, and that it's wise to get a doctor's approval before starting a new fitness program, especially if you've been inactive for a while.
Khaw's study appears online in Public Library of Science Medicine.
(Have you added these four healthy changes to your life? How are you feeling? Talk about it on the WebMD Alternative Health message board.)