Regular exercise, no smoking may increase lifespan of people with high BP and other chronic diseases
Chronic health conditions should not stop you from adopting a healthy lifestyle. A new study suggests that exercising regularly and avoiding smoking may increase the life expectancy of people battling multiple conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and arthritis.
"More individuals are living with multiple chronic conditions, impacting their health and daily lives," Dr Yogini Chudasama from the University of Leicester, and one of the authors of the study said. "We found a healthy lifestyle, in particular, abstinence from smoking, increased life expectancy by as much as seven years. Our study has important implications for the public's health, as we hope our findings have shown that it's never too late to make vital lifestyle changes."
Six in 10 American adults struggle with chronic conditions. "Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. "Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. They are also leading drivers of the nation's $3.5 trillion in annual health care cost."
While studies have linked a healthy lifestyle with longevity, it is not clear whether these benefits hold for people with chronic health conditions, Dr Chudasama and her colleagues wrote in their study. So the team analyzed data from 480,940 adults between 2006 and 2010, following-up on them until 2016. They wanted to see if lifestyle factors like leisure-time physical activity, smoking, diet, and alcohol intake were connected with the lifespan of participants reporting 36 chronic conditions.
In 480,940 participants, 29.6% men had high blood pressure, 10.7% had asthma, 6.3% had cancer, 5.8% diabetes, 4.6% had angina. For women, 22.7% had hypertension, 12.3% had asthma, 9.8% had cancer, 6.7% had depression, and 4.2% had a migraine. A total of 93,746 or 19.5% of participants were struggling with multiple conditions at a time.
Overall, men with chronic conditions who scored high on the healthy lifestyle meter appeared to have gained 4.5 years more of life expectancy. It was 6.3 years extra years for those with very healthy scores, the study found. Among women, the gain was 6.4 years, and 7.6 years for healthy and unhealthy scores, respectively.
Among individual lifestyle factors, smoking appeared to be dramatically beneficial: smokers lived five to six years lesser than non-smokers. Regular physical activity came second. It was linked with 2.5 years longer life expectancy in men and 1.9 longer years in women. The gain was smaller for those consuming alcohol, and following a healthy diet, the researchers found.
"A healthier lifestyle is consistently associated with a longer life expectancy across various individual risks and irrespective of the presence of multiple long-term medical conditions," the researchers wrote in their study. "Public health recommendations about a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing chronic long-term conditions equally apply to individuals who have already multimorbidity," they added.
The study does not prove that a healthy lifestyle could lead to a longer lifespan -- but merely establishes a link between the two. One major limitation of the study was that more than 95% of participants were white and were more affluent than the general population in the UK. The study is published in PLOS Medicine.