Healthy Middle-Age Lifestyle Halves Women's Risk of Death

Analysis of Nurses' Health Study shows benefits of exercising, eating a healthy diet and not smoking
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged women who avoid smoking, maintain a healthy body weight, get regular exercise and eat a diet low in red meat and trans-fats can reduce their risk of premature death by more than half, according to study findings published online Sept. 16 in BMJ.

Rob M. van Dam, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues studied outcomes in 77,782 women from the Nurses' Health Study who were aged 34 to 59 years and free of cardiovascular disease and cancer in 1980.

After a 24-year follow-up, the researchers identified 8,882 deaths, including 1,790 from cardiovascular disease and 4,527 from cancer. They estimated that smoking was responsible for 28 percent of deaths, and that a combination of smoking, overweight or obesity, lack of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and a low-quality diet were responsible for 55 percent of deaths.

"Of note, our results indicate that a healthy diet and regular physical activity have important health benefits independent of reducing adiposity," the authors conclude. "These findings underscore the importance of intensifying both efforts to eradicate cigarette smoking and those aimed at improving diet and physical activity."

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