How to live longer: not smoking can increase longevity

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Life is full of uncertainties, but the evidence continues to suggest that the decisions you make can largely determine how long you live. What is less clear is whether a healthy lifestyle impacts longevity in the presence of two or more chronic conditions. Researchers in a study published in PLOS Medicine investigated this relationship.

They set out to examine the relationship between a healthy lifestyle and life expectancy in people with and without two or more chronic diseases.

A total of 480,940 middle-aged adults (median age 58 [range 38–73], 46 percent male, 95 percent white) were analyzed in the UK Biobank study.

UK Biobank is a large-scale biomedical database and research resource, containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants.

The researchers collected data between 2006 and 2010 and focused on 36 chronic diseases for their comparative analysis.

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Four lifestyle factors, based on national guidelines, were used: physical activity during leisure time, smoking, diet and alcohol consumption.

The participants were grouped into four categories: very unhealthy, unhealthy, healthy and very healthy.

Survival models were applied to predict life expectancy, taking into account ethnicity, professional status, deprivation, body mass index and sedentary time.

“For individual lifestyle factors, no current smoking was associated with the greatest survival benefit,” the researchers found.

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They also found that regardless of the presence of multimorbidity (two or more conditions), adopting a healthier lifestyle was associated with up to 6.3 years longer lifespan for men and 7.6 years for women.

“However, not all lifestyle risk factors are equally correlated with life expectancy, smoking being significantly worse than others,” they concluded.

Why smoking is such a serious threat to your health

Smoking is one of the leading causes of death and illness in the UK.

Each year, around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, and many more live with debilitating smoking-related illnesses.

In addition, smoking increases the risk of developing more than 50 serious health problems, warns the NHS.

“Some can be fatal, and others can cause irreversible, long-term damage to your health.”

You can get sick:

  • If you smoke yourself
  • If people around you smoke (secondhand smoke).

The best way for people who smoke to reduce their risk of serious health problems, such as cancer, and improve their health, therefore, is to quit smoking altogether.

“The best way to quit smoking is to use a combination of treatment to quit smoking and the help of a specialist from local smoking cessation services,” notes Cancer Research UK.

According to the association, you are about three times more likely to quit smoking for good thanks to their advice and support.

They offer a range of help including:

  • Free individual or group consultations where a qualified counselor can help you break your smoking habits
  • Provide different medications and treatments to help control cravings
  • Tips for switching to electronic cigarettes and how to best use them.

“Although more research is needed on their long-term effects, the evidence so far shows that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking,” notes Cancer Research UK.


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