Health: Study shows: These eight factors are crucial for a long life

On average, 40-year-old men can live 23.

Health: Study shows: These eight factors are crucial for a long life

On average, 40-year-old men can live 23.7 years longer with a healthy lifestyle than with a very harmful one. For women, this difference is 22.6 years. This is the result of the analysis of a long-term study of former members of the American military, which a research team presented at the international conference "Nutrition 2023" in Boston. Another study was able to show how important information about cancer risk factors is.

The team led by Xuan-Mai Nguyen from the University of Illinois analyzed data from over 700,000 US veterans aged 40 to 99. It defined eight habits as a healthy lifestyle: being physically active, not smoking, managing stress well, eating well, not drinking excessively, sleeping well and regularly, having positive social relationships, and not being dependent on opioid painkillers. "We were really surprised at how much you could gain by adopting one, two, three or all eight lifestyle factors," Nguyen said in a statement from the American Society for Nutrition.

The greatest risk factors were found to be low physical activity, dependence on opioid painkillers and smoking. These factors were each associated with an increased risk of death of 30 to 45 percent during the study period. Poor handling of stress, high alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and poor sleep hygiene increased the risk of death by around 20 percent each, and five percent when there was a lack of good social contacts.

The doctors found that a change to a healthy lifestyle increases life expectancy even in old age. "The sooner the better, but even if you make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it's still beneficial," Nguyen points out.

The study data comes from the Million Veteran Program, a US national research program that examines how genes, lifestyle, and military experiences affect the health and well-being of ex-servicemen. The analysis by Nguyen and colleagues included data from 719,147 veterans collected between 2011 and 2019.

Lifestyle also plays an important role in reducing cancer risk. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer risk factors include alcohol, low physical activity, unhealthy diet, obesity, red and processed meat, sugary drinks, tobacco use and exposure to ultraviolet radiation. A study by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) found that in ten high-income developed countries, on average, a third of respondents do not follow cancer prevention recommendations. The countries studied were Australia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Canada, Sweden, Spain and the USA.

"It is important to understand whether people do nothing to reduce their personal cancer risk because they do not know about the risk factors, or whether they do not act despite knowing about the risk factors," says Pricivel Carrera from the National Cancer Prevention Center, according to a statement from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. Therefore, together with her DKFZ colleague Silvia Calderazzo, she analyzed the data of the UICC study with regard to the state of knowledge on cancer risk factors. They found that if the number of people who are well informed about cancer risk factors increases by one percentage point, the number of people taking action to reduce their risk increases by an average of 0.169 percentage points.

The people in Japan were the least informed and there was also the least cancer prevention. But even in Germany, the knowledge of those surveyed about cancer risk factors was below average. "In Germany, around 40 percent of all cancer cases are preventable - through a healthy lifestyle and the use of vaccinations," says Carrera.

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