Healthy diet and exercise extends life expectancy among those with multiple health conditions

A healthy lifestyle increases life expectancy by more than six years among people who have multiple health conditions, researchers at Leicester University have said.

Funded by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands, the team found that regardless of other health issues, eating well and exercising helped men live up to 6.3 years longer while women could prolong their lives by 7.6 years.

The study, published by the journal PLOS Medicine, used data from more than 480,000 adults aged between 38 and 73. Of that number, 93,746 people (19.5 per cent) suffered from two or more chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, cancer, diabetes and depression.

Within the study, each individual had their lifestyle factors measured, which included their physical activity, diet, smoking habits and alcohol consumption.

Over the course of the 10-year study period, their health was monitored and they were divided up into four categories; very healthy, healthy, unhealthy and very unhealthy.

Lead researcher Yogini Chudasama, PhD Student in Epidemiology at the University of Leicester, said: “We already know that living a healthy life can help prevent disease, but we didn’t know exactly how regular exercise and a good diet might impact life expectancy among people with multiple health conditions.

“Whilst changing lifestyle behaviours is not easy, particularly for those who are not as fit as they should be, our findings have shown how important living a healthy lifestyle really is.”

The study involved researchers applying survival models so they could predict life expectancy, adjusting for each person’s ethnicity, working status, deprivation, body mass index, and sedentary times.

At a follow-up session with all the participants, seven years on average after the study began, researchers recorded just over 11,000 deaths – with smoking being the single worst lifestyle factor for shortening life.

ARC East Midlands funds vital work to tackle the region’s health and care priorities by speeding up the adoption of research onto the frontline of health and social care. The organisation puts in place evidence-based frameworks to drive up standards of care and save time and money.

ARC East Midlands is hosted by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and works in collaboration with the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network. It has bases at University of Leicester and University of Nottingham.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, senior author and Director of the NIHR ARC East Midlands and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “Our study has important implications for the public’s health and their future.

“Even for those who are ill with more than one health condition we hope our findings have shown that it’s never too late to make vital lifestyle changes which could make a huge impact to both their quality and length of life.”

This research was supported by the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre