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The Four Horsemen of Unhealthy Living

Posted by bmagnus On April - 28 - 2010

Research published in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine has linked 4 unhealthy behaviors to increased risk of death. Want to shorten your lifespan by 12 years? Want to be three times more likely to have a heart attack and four times more likely to get cancer? If not, you’ll want to avoid these usual suspects.

Smoking. Is there anybody who doesn’t yet know that smoking is bad for you? And yet many people still smoke. Not only is this a life-shortener, it’s expensive and odious to those around you.

Lack of physical activity. The bar was set very low on this; a mere 2 hours a week of “leisure time physical activity” was good enough. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association guidelines are somewhat higher. Study after study has shown that there are many health enhancing and life extending benefits of regular physical activity, and this study shows that even relatively low levels are better than nothing!

Poor diet. In this case, “poor” was defined as eating fewer than 3 servings of fruits and/or vegetables daily. Again, this is an extremely low level far below what almost any expert would recommend.

Excessive alcohol consumption. This was also no surprise. The standard used by researchers if roughly equivalent to exceeding an “average of three drinks per day for men, or two for women.”

This as not a small study. Researchers followed almost 5000 people for 20 years. It also confirms the results of many other studies that looked at these factors both individually and together. The bottom line is that we can all age against the machine through physical activity, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding drinking too much, and not smoking at all.

His Take: There really aren’t any surprises here. The are all things that have been shown over and over to contribute to ill health and untimely demise. What’s important is the size of the study. 100,000 human years is a lot and it helps bring things into very sharp focus.

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