The seven golden rules for a healthy life: Simple lifestyle steps can help prevent cancer and heart disease, say experts
- Rules include being a healthy weight, physically active and eating healthily
- Also important to keep blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar down
- Adhering to at least six ‘rules’ reduced the risk of cancer by 51 per cent
- Researchers say it’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle
Seven simple steps can slash the risk of dying from cancer or heart disease by up to 50 per cent, according to a landmark study.
Adhering to at least six of the ‘Life’s Simple 7’ list of lifestyle choices from the American Heart Association reduced the risk of an early death, say researchers.
The seven golden rules are being physically active, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, keeping blood pressure down, regulating blood sugar levels and not smoking.
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Living longer: Seven simple steps can slash the risk of dying from cancer or heart disease by up to 50 per cent, according to a landmark study
When smoking status was not considered, people who met five or six of the remaining six factors had a 25 per cent lower cancer risk than those who met none.
The list was originally compiled by the American Heart Association to ward off heart disease. However, new research shows they can also help prevent cancer.
Lead author Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, an assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said: ‘We were gratified to know adherence to the Life’s Simple 7 goals was also associated with reduced incidence of cancer.
‘This can help health professionals provide a clear, consistent message about the most important things people can do to protect their health and lower their overall risk for chronic diseases.’
Adhering to six or seven of the factors reduced the risk of cancer by 51 per cent, compared with people who met none of the factors. Meeting four factors led to a 33 per cent risk reduction and one or two, a 21 per cent reduction.
Life’s Simple 7 is part of the association’s My Life Check campaign that advises Americans to adhere to seven factors for a healthy heart.
BEING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Exercising helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar
Experts are increasingly concerned about the amount of time we spend sitting. Last month Kansas State University researchers warned that office workers could be risking their health simply by sitting at their desk.
They found that people who spend more than four hours a day sitting down are at greater risk of chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Those sitting for at least six hours were significantly more likely to have diabetes.
Research published last month from Leicester University recommended that people at high risk of developing diabetes may be able to escape the condition by cutting the time they spending sitting down by 90 minutes every day.
They found important risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, such as blood glucose and cholesterol levels, improved far more in people told to sit less, compared with those doing required amounts of exercise.
Harmful: Quitting smoking is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle
‘Quitting smoking is very important,’ said Dr Rasmussen-Torvik. ‘It’s never too late to change, and if you make changes like quitting smoking and improving your diet, you can reduce your risk for both cardiovascular disease and cancer.’
They come after German researchers announced last month that quitting smoking in middle age or beyond still has significant health benefits.
Even lifelong smokers who gave up smoking later on in life still experienced a massive 40 per cent reduction in the risk of heart attack and stroke within just five years.
The study followed nearly 9,000 German people aged between 50 and 74 years for ten years.
Professor Hermann Brenner and his colleagues from the German Cancer Research Centre were able to show that smokers were at double the risk of developing heart disease compared to non-smokers, but that former smokers were at almost the same low rate as people of the same age who have never smoked.
Meanwhile, a Canadian study published earlier this year demonstrated that people who give up smoking by the age of 44 can live almost as long as those who have never smoked.
‘Quitting smoking before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all of the decade of lost life from continued smoking,’ study leader Professor Prabhat Jha.
The researchers found that people who quit smoking between the ages of 35 and 44 gained about nine years and those who quit between ages 45-54 and 55-64 gained six and four years of life, respectively.
CONTROLLING BLOOD SUGAR
High blood sugar increases the risk of diabetes
High blood sugar increases the risk of diabetes -and, in turn, complications of the disease such as blindness, kidney disease and nerve damage.
The risk of heart disease is five times higher in middle aged men with diabetes and eight times higher in women with diabetes.
Diabetes UK estimates that the life expectancy of someone with type 2 diabetes is likely to be reduced – as a result of the condition – by up to 10 years.
Results of a 30 year study by the University of Pittsburgh, published in 2012, noted that people with type 1 diabetes born after 1965 had a life expectancy of 69 years.
KEEPING A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Watching weight: A recent study in The Lancet found that obesity and its associated diseases was one of the key reasons for an early death
Having a BMI above the ‘ideal’ range of 22.5 to 25 increases the risk of an early death., according to a recent study.
Above BMI of 25, each additional five units on the BMI scale increased overall mortality by around a third.
The investigation, called the Prospective Studies Collaboration, pooled information on 894,576 adults mostly from western Europe and North America with an average age of 46 and an average BMI of 25.
As well as looking at overall death rates, the researchers linked BMI scores with common causes of death through ill health.
Each additional five BMI units corresponded with a 40 per cent increase in deaths from heart and artery disease and strokes.
MAINTAINING HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE LEVELS
Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart failure
High blood pressure – or hypertension – means that your blood pressure is constantly higher than the recommended level.
Over time, if it is not treated, the heart may become enlarged, making it pump less effectively, which could lead to heart failure.
A recent study in The Lancet found that smoking was the top reason for an early death in the UK, accounting for 12 per cent, followed by high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, alcohol and poor diet.
The alarming report shows that despite huge advances in cancer screening, immunisations and a smoking ban, life expectancy is not increasing as rapidly in Briton compared to other nations.
EATING A HEALTHY DIET
Eating a Mediterranean diet could add an extra three years to your life
Eating a Mediterranean-style diet can cut heart attacks, strokes and death rates in people at high risk of heart disease by as much as a third, research shows.
Changing the balance of foods in a diet can lessen the risk even before heart-related illness strikes, according to a major Spanish clinical trial.
Meanwhile, Swedish researchers have calculated the regime could add an extra three years to your life.
They say a Mediterranean-style diet is a rich source of chemicals called anti-oxidants that fight cancer, heart disease and can slow the ageing process.
Scientists who studied the eating habits of 1,200 over-70s found that those following a Mediterranean-style diet tended to live for two or three years longer.
The Mediterranean diet is widely recommended as a healthy eating plan by doctors and nutritionists as it is high in fruits, vegetables, fish and wholegrain cereals and low in meat and dairy, which contain large amounts of saturated fats.
Traditionally olive oil rather than butter is used in cooking, as well as for dressing salads and moistening bread.
This is high in monounsaturated fat, which is thought to protect against heart disease.
MAINTAINING HEALTHY CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Too much cholesterol in the blood causes the arteries to harden and narrow
Too much cholesterol in the blood causes the arteries to harden and narrow. This slows down and may eventually block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack.
Participants in the ‘Life’s Simple 7’ list study included 13,253 white and African-American men and women in the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, launched in 1987 in four U.S. communities.
They were interviewed and examined at the start of the study to determine which health factors they met or followed.
About 20 years later, the researchers reviewed cancer registries and hospital records and determined that 2,880 of the participants ended up with cancer, primarily of the lung, colon or rectum, prostate and breast.
The findings were published in the journal Circulation.