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Bad Habits Can Age You by 12 Years

By April 29, 2010

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Four bad habits, very common among alcoholics, can make a person seem 12 years older in terms of health and increase the risk for an early death. Those habits - drinking too much, smoking, inactivity and poor diet - substantially increase the risk of death, according to a new study.

The study tracked 4,886 British adults over a 20-year period.

This is not exactly hot news, that smoking, drinking to excess, not getting exercise and not eating properly will increase your risk for a variety of health problems. But the new research, conducted by Elisabeth Kvaavik of the University of Oslo, studied the four "bad habits" as a combined health threat.

Of the almost 5,000 people followed in the study, only 314 people had all four unhealthy habits and only 387 people had none of the four.

Four Bad Habits

For the study, the researchers defined the four risky behaviors as:

Over the 20 years of the study, 29% of those who had all four risky behaviors died, while only 8% of those with none of the bad habits died.

"These habits combined substantially increased the risk of death and made people who engaged in them seem 12 years older than people in the healthiest group," said Kvaavik.

Reversing The Trend

The researchers said that reversing these health risks does not require extreme measures. Those who got at least two hours of physical activity per week and those who ate fruits and vegetables at least three times a day, were among the healthiest group in the study.

The problem for alcoholics is that research shows that most of them also smoke, many suffer from not eating a proper diet and exhibit a sedentary lifestyle, according to previous research.

Even many alcoholics who have quit drinking still continue to smoke and many fail to get enough exercise and eat healthy diets. That's the reason that many alcohol and drug rehab programs include education about exercise and nutrition in their long-term treatment plans.

It's another example that getting sober is only the beginning for alcoholics to return to a healthy lifestyle. True recovery includes many stages.

The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, April 26, 2010.

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