Medical professionals from the University of Zurich have compiled important public health results that can be used in counseling and primary care to slash the risk of early death.
Their conclusion was general, stating that people can live longer due to an active lifestyle, more fruit and vegetable consumption, and limited cigarettes and alcohol use. However, they did show at which ages these lifestyle choices are most important and effective.
Poor lifestyle choice lead to a 2.5 fold higher mortality risk
With cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory disorders and cancer rising across the board in all industrialized countries, now is the time to hone in on preventive strategies.
That’s what the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is taking on — developing a process of national prevention strategies that will encourage healthier behavior and improve the population’s health competence.
Brian Martin and his colleagues from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) at the University of Zurich looked into the combined and individual effects of four factors on life expectancy. These included tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, quality of diet and excessive alcohol consumption.
They investigated the obvious and did not look at some of the more silent destroyers of health — heavy metals and endocrine disrupters. They did not examine the importance of clean, purified un-fluoridated water. They did not track individual’s consumption of pesticides or genetically modified ingredients.
What they did find was simple. An individual who consumes excessive alcohol, smokes often, is physically inactive and eats few fruits and vegetables has a 2.5-fold higher mortality risk in epidemiological terms than an individual who chooses much healthier habits
Their numbers practically anointed healthy lifestyle choices. As lead author Eva Martin-Diener put it, “A healthy lifestyle can help you stay ten years’ younger.”
Smoking increases risk of premature death nearly four times faster than excessive alcohol consumption
Their numbers are derived from data taken from the Swiss National Cohort. Lifestyle choices of 16,721 participants were compared and analyzed. The age range studied (16-90 year olds) was inclusive, and the years studied were from 1977 to 1993. The participants’ deaths were studied up until 2008.
“The effect of each individual factor on life expectancy is relatively high,” stated Eva Martin-Diener. Their results conclude that smoking is the most harmful lifestyle choice; smokers had a 57 percent higher risk of premature death than nonsmokers. Excessive alcohol consumption had less effect on early mortality, increasing premature death by 15 percent. This shows that smoking increases risk of premature death nearly four times faster than alcohol consumption.
Poor lifestyle choices have greater effect on mortality risk for those 75 and older
The most interesting part of the study was how the lifestyle choices impacted people at different ages. According to Martin-Diener and colleagues, the most concerning lifestyle choice among all age groups was an unhealthy diet.
For those between the ages of 45 and 55, none of the four lifestyle choices had much effect on early mortality risk. On the other hand, for those between 65 and 75 years of age, these same daily choices had a much more detrimental effect on mortality risk.
The authors of the study pointed out that a 65-year-old man who made poor lifestyle choices across the board was at no greater risk of dying than a 75-year-old man who made healthy choices.
“In [the] future, doctors will be able to refer to the easily comprehensible charts when giving health counselling to their patients in primary care,” said Martin-Diener.
“Furthermore, they may also be important for the political discussions of prevention strategies for NCDs.”
Again, these general prevention strategies do not include other important lifestyle choices. The study did not speculate on heavy metal consumption through the years or exposure to BPA, fine particulate matter or pesticides.
The obvious choices like drinking alcohol and smoking are always chastised. To better prevent premature death, more studies need to focus on the health detriments that people cannot see.