Healthy Lifestyle May Offset Life-Shortening Genes by Over 60%, Study Finds

Unfavorable Lifestyle Linked to 78% Higher Risk of Premature Death

A new study published in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine suggests that adopting a healthy lifestyle may counteract the effects of genes associated with a shortened lifespan by more than 60%. The research, based on an analysis of findings from several large long-term studies, also indicates that an unhealthy lifestyle is independently linked to a 78% increased risk of dying prematurely, regardless of genetic predisposition.

The study used a polygenic risk score (PRS) to determine an individual’s overall genetic predisposition to a longer or shorter lifespan, and a weighted healthy lifestyle score that included factors such as smoking status, alcohol consumption, diet quality, sleep duration, and physical activity levels.

During the nearly 13-year follow-up period, 24,239 of the 353,742 adult participants died. The researchers found that those genetically predisposed to a short lifespan were 21% more likely to die early compared to those with a genetic predisposition to a long life, regardless of lifestyle. Similarly, those with an unfavorable lifestyle were 78% more likely to die prematurely than those with a favorable lifestyle, irrespective of genetic predisposition.

Four Key Factors for an Optimal Lifestyle Combination

The study identified four crucial factors that make up the optimal lifestyle combination: not smoking, regular physical activity, adequate nightly sleep, and a healthy diet. Participants with a high genetic risk of a shortened lifespan and an unfavorable lifestyle were twice as likely to die as those genetically predisposed to a long life and with a favorable lifestyle.

While the study has some limitations, such as assessing lifestyle at only one point in time and including only participants of European ancestry, the researchers suggest that their findings indicate that the genetic risk of a shorter lifespan or premature death might be offset by a favorable lifestyle by around 62%.

“This study elucidates the pivotal role of a healthy lifestyle in mitigating the impact of genetic factors on lifespan reduction,” the researchers conclude. “Public health policies for improving healthy lifestyles would serve as potent complements to conventional healthcare and mitigate the influence of genetic factors on human lifespan.”

The researchers also suggest that individuals at high genetic risk of a shortened lifespan could potentially extend their life expectancy by nearly 5.5 years at the age of 40 by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Given that lifestyle habits tend to be established before middle age, the researchers emphasize the importance of taking steps to mitigate genetic predisposition to a shortened life before reaching middle age.

Keyword/Phrase: Healthy Lifestyle Offsets Life-Shortening Genes

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