How to live longer: Not smoking and physical activity boosts longevity

Life is a treacherous gamble: you cannot fully predict what threats will come and when. However, research continues to highlight the extent to which you can determine longevity. This is because fatal complications are largely caused by poor lifestyle decisions.

The Kungsholmen Project is a longitudinal population study on aging and dementia, conducted by the Stockholm Research Center on Aging in collaboration with the Aging Research Center (ARC), Karolinska Institutet.

Data on personal characteristics (age, gender, occupation, and education) were obtained from participants through a face-to-face interview with trained nurses, following standard protocols.

Information on smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure activities, and social networks was obtained from previously collected data and from face-to-face interviews by trained nurses during the baseline survey.

What did the researchers discover?

During follow-up, 1,661 (91.8 percent) of the participants died.

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Half of the participants lived longer than 90 years. Half of current smokers died one year earlier than non-smokers.

Among recreational activities, physical activity was most associated with survival; The mean age at death of participants who swam, walked or did gymnastics regularly was two years older than those who did not.

The median survival of people with low risk (healthy lifestyle behaviours, participation in at least one recreational activity, and moderate or rich social network) was 5.4 years longer than those with a high risk profile (unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, No participation in recreational activities, limited or weak social network).

Even among the older cohorts (85 years or older) and people with chronic diseases, the median age at death was four years higher for those with low risk than for those with high risk.

The researchers concluded, “Even after age 75, lifestyle behaviors such as smoking cessation and physical activity are associated with longer survival.”

Moreover, a lower level of risk could add five years to the lives of women and six years to the lives of men, they note.

“These associations, although weak, were also present among the elderly and in people with chronic diseases.”

Why quitting smoking is a no-brainer

Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and disease in the UK.

Every year around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, and many live with debilitating diseases linked to smoking.

According to the NHS, smoking increases the risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions.

A healthy body warns that “some of them can be fatal, and others can cause long-term, irreversible damage to your health.”

You can get sick:

  • If you smoke yourself
  • If people around you smoke (passive smoking).

“Your GP can give you information and advice about quitting smoking,” advises the NHS.

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