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A combo of five healthy lifestyle habits linked to reduced risk of early death, study finds

The combination of five healthy lifestyle behaviors is associated with a significantly lower risk of premature death, a study from China has found.

What’s new about that, you say? Well, first, this is one of the few studies to look at the combined impact of lifestyle factors on mortality.

And, second, its factors go beyond the usual suspects: not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption. All the 71,000-plus Chinese women aged 40 to 76 whose data was crunched for this study were nonsmokers and nondrinkers to begin with.

Instead, this study, which was published in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine, focused on five other healthy lifestyle factors: 1) normal weight (a BMI of less than 25), 2) a low waist-hip ratio (low belly fat), 3) regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day), 4) no exposure to a spouse’s second-hand tobacco smoke and 5) a high intake of fruits and vegetables.

They found that the women who adhered to four to five of these healthy behaviors had a 43 percent lower risk of dying from any cause over a nine-year period than those who did none of them.

Like all studies, this one has its limitations. Although it excluded data from women who had been diagnosed with cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease, there’s no way of knowing whether some of the women whose data was included in the study had these illnesses, albeit undiagnosed, when the study began. Another limitation of the study is that the women all self-reported their data. (People don’t always tell the truth about their health-related habits or remember them correctly.) And because it didn’t include men (the data came from the ongoing Shanghai Women’s Health Study), it’s unknown whether similar results would be found with them.

Still, this association between a combination of healthy lifestyle factors and a lower risk of premature death should get all of us thinking: Which of those five factors do we need to do a little more work on?

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